Protofeminst Thought in Mid-Twentieth-Century Magazine Articles


From Uncoverings 2016, Volume 37 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group


By: Hall-Patton, Colleen R.

Abstract: Like other art forms, quilting is a microcosm of its surrounding society. Thus, quilting is a possible place to find seeds of the women's movement and active resistance to consumption. From the 1940s to the early 1970s, quilts slowly underwent a change in status in magazine articles from being understood as antiques and functional bedcoverings to being recognized as art forms worthy of exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City. Using content analysis of over 200 popular magazine articles in the Reader's Guide to Peri­odical Articles and the Art Index, the paper examines how changes in views of quilting preceded and paralleled the 1960s women's movement. Though the gender component was not clearly linked to quilting until the early 1970s, quilting made the personal political by questioning cultural norms that stressed mass production of goods and the strict delineation between art, craft, and home production, as well as how the magazine articles helped women see themselves as innovative and able to claim personal authority to follow their own artistic path. Colleen Hall-Patton teaches women's studies at the College of Southern Nevada and sociology at University of Nevada Las Vegas. She graduated with a PhD in sociology from UNLV in 2004. Her dissertation (Quilters Between Revivals: The Cultural Context of Quilting, 1945-1970) used quilting to look at changes in women's roles, the relation of gender and art, and the impact of commercialization in the twenty-five years after World War II. This paper is partially derived from that research. Her BA and master's degrees are in anthropology from UCLA, where she researched contemporary quilters. Her areas of interest are in the arts, history, gender, globalization, cultural studies, celebrity studies, and cultural change.