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See the best traditional artists in America
For those who read or want to write for the magazine
’s off to our pioneering foremothers
featured in this issue.
Most remain unnamed though not
unknown—lauded for their skills
at preserving themselves, their
families, and even their communities.
And, let us remind our modern
selves, they lacked our vast access to knowledge and technology.
We also owe a debt to the leaders who encouraged
and supported these women, and to the scholars and writers
who continue to mine and share their stories.
Take the women of Ipswich, Massachusetts. In the
second half of the 18th Century, as their families and
community faced economic hardship from the closing
of their once-international port and the blockades that
stopped the flow of overseas goods, they picked up sewing
needles and bobbins to stitch/weave the linen and silk lace
that fashion demanded but wealthy Americans could no
longer import from Europe.
In the process, the Ipswich lace makers created our
first viable domestic manufacturing enterprise. Still, had
not the Reverend Joseph Dana calculated their contribution
to America’s budding industrialization by sending a
year-long report and pages of lace samples to U.S. Treasury
Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1790, their efforts
might have been overlooked.
A few decades later, the young, vivacious, and intrepid
Lydia Latrobe Roosevelt decided to accompany her husband,
ship builder Nicholas Roosevelt, on a steamboat
journey down the Ohio River to the Mississippi en route
to New Orleans, the name he gave his ship. Lydia made
not one but two trips—pregnant both times—and the
stories she told their son John Latrobe became the basis of
the journeys’ accounts.
Consider that women accomplished these feats clad
in layers of heavy clothing and likely uncomfortable
shoes, with scant knowledge of or protection against the
unknown. And those bred to society, like Lydia Roosevelt,
would have done so with painted faces and perfectly
Whatever American women knew of fashion, make-up,
and hairstyles came through Britain and France. Rebecca
Rupp examines the elaborate—and expensive—rituals
women (and some men) endured to be stylish. Granted that
wealthy husbands likely paid the mantua and wig makers
and purchased the gilt toilette sets to accomplish this mission,
but certainly the wives offered their input.
In a similar manner, socially accomplished wives
would have encouraged their aristocratic spouses to purchase
fine hard-paste porcelain from China to grace their
homes, like the Nanking service on Anna Williams’ dining
table in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Surely Catharine
van Rensselaer Schuyler, Martha Custis Washington, and
Elizabeth Heyward Manigault had some say in the choice
of patterns for the garniture on the mantel or the punch
bowl on the sideboard ordered by their famous husbands.
Ware Petznick discusses the popularity of Chinese
porcelain made for the American market in the 18th and
19th Centuries, with a vocabulary of patterns and tips for
On a more practical level, our foremothers would have
tended a kitchen garden, perhaps taking a chance on an
ancient Chinese herbal called rhubarb, learning that its red
and green stalks produced a delicious pie to accompany the
punch in their Canton or Famille Rose punch bowl.
So when you’re considering an unfamiliar topic in our
history, do as Abigail Adams admonished husband John and
“Remember the ladies!” They had a lot to contribute.
The entry deadline for the 2023 Directory of
Traditional American Crafts has passed. We are now processing entries and submitting
them to our jurors. We will contract entrants after the jurors have made ther decisions.