One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts: Expressions of Cross-Cultural Communication


From Uncoverings 2014, Volume 35 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group


By: Hanson, Marin F.

Abstract: This paper examines the phenomenon of “One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts” (OHGWQ), early 21st-century quilts made by American families to commemorate their adoption of a Chinese child. Since 1994, the single largest source for international adoptions in the United States has been the People’s Republic of China. Indeed, between 1999 and 2012, nearly 70,000 children of ethnic Chinese descent joined thousands of American families. During that same period, however, adoption from China, which began as a relatively quick and easy process, became progressively longer and more difficult. To cope with this lengthening, unpredictable, and sometimes emotionally turbulent process, parents began to make OHGWQ, which have roots in a northern Chinese patchwork practice and spread rapidly through the China adoption community via the Internet. This paper traces the development of the OHGWQ, examines the Chinese and American antecedents that served as sources for the new practice, and assesses the meanings that parents and others have assigned to the quilts and the process of making them. At the same time, the paper is intended to serve as a model for how we can use quilts as metaphors for socio-cultural phenomena—in particular, changing attitudes about how adopted children should be integrated into American society and how Americans view Chinese culture in general.

Marin Hanson is Curator of Exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her MA in museum studies and textile history with a quilt studies emphasis from UNL. She is the co-editor of American Quilts in the Modem Age , 1870-1940, the first publication in the IQSC&M's comprehensive series of collections catalogs (University of Nebraska Press, 2009). Hanson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester (UK) and is focusing her doctoral research on cross-cultural quiltmaking practices, with particular emphasis on China and the United States.