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Four generations of quilters in the Zumbrun Family

Marsha MacDowell
Michigan State University Museum
 Michigan, United States

The Zumbrun Family quilts, 13 in all, represent the rare occurrence of the documentation of four generations of family quilters and their work. The quilts produced by Mary Strock Zumbrun, her daughter Olive Zumbrun Blocher, granddaughter Mary Blocher Hershberger, and great-granddaughter Carolyn Oberman and her family. Although the quilts are different from each other in color and design, all of them show a high degree of technical proficiency and represent a love of quilting that has been passed from generation to generation. Oberman reflects on her family's tradition:

Mary Strock Zumbrun made quilts and comforters strictly for her family's use. They were a farm family in Ohio and during the last half of the 19th century when she and her husband were raising a family of eight girls and two boys. A lot of bed coverings were needed. Making quilts was an almost continuous year-around work with another quilt going in the quilting frame as soon as one was finished and came out. All the daughters as well as their mother quilted every day as farm work and chores permitted. But as the daughters grew into their teens and the mother's health was poor- no doubt from childbearing - she more and more did most of the quilting. This I know from reading one of the daughter's (my Grandmother) 1893 Journal which tells much about their daily life.

I know for a fact that all the women in this thrifty and hard-working German family were assiduous sewers, making all their clothing, including bonnets and men's clothing. When a quilt or comforter was in progress, everyone worked on it in their spare time. Very often neighboring women went to each other's homes to help quilt. In my grandmother's 1893 journal which I havbe, she writes of these quilting get-togethers.

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