04 May 2013

A Week in Topeka: The Road Trip Begins

Last month I mentioned that I'd be spending a week in Topeka, Kansas, researching this signature quilt. I can't believe the time has finally come. I'm terribly excited about this project, which I'm calling Piecing Together a Kansas Woman's Community: The Regina Mills Chambers Signature Quilt as Historical Record. I'm so eager to see the 180 names and try to figure out how all those people are connected to the woman who owned the quilt!

When I first decided to apply for the Edward N. Tihen Historical Research Grant, I called the Kansas Historical Foundation to describe my project. I also asked which Kansas Historical Society staff members might be able to tell me more about the quilt. Rebecca Martin, the quilt's cataloger, kindly sent me its "object worksheet" by email. Some of the information on the worksheet doesn't appear in the quilt's Kansas Memory catalog record, so I was happy to have some new hints about the people behind all those names:

- At least eleven states appear on the quilt, none located in the southern part of the country.

- One block refers to Washington Territory.

- Kansas towns include Oskaloosa and Dodge City.

- The words "Ladies Aid Society" follow about ten names.

- Several names are affiliated with churches in Kansas. Churches, plural.

Who are these people? How are they associated with the woman who owned the quilt? Are they friends? Family members? People she knew through a community organization? Do the places represent where these people came to Kansas from, or where they were going to?

I'm hitting the road this morning, and I look forward to sharing more details about the search and research I'll be doing at the Kansas Historical Society starting Monday, May 6th. Keep an eye out for tweets too! In the meantime, read Gena Philibert-Ortega's latest blog post about using quilts to research women's lives.