Monday, November 20, 2023

"The Patchwork Quilt:" 1845

Photograph of a mill operative, once in the collection of the 
Museum of American Textile History, photo
now perhaps at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell libraries

The young women who worked in the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts in the early 1840s spent their days at machines in the noisy cloth manufactories and their evenings in literary pursuits, producing for a few years The Lowell Offering, a magazine of their writing.

Women holding bobbins, about 1870
University of Massachusetts/Lowell libraries

From Harriet Hanson Robinson's history: Early Factory Labor in New England, 1889

Harriet Hanson Robinson (1825-1911)

Volume #5 of the Lowell Offering published a four-page feature, "The Patchwork Quilt," signed Annette, a nom de plume used by both editor Harriett Farley and Rebecca C. Thompson.

Annette used the patchwork quilt with a "copperplate" print star in the center to recall memories of learning to sew, clothing scraps and their family associations. The patchwork top was finished when she and her younger sister prepared it for the quilting party as the sister's wedding approaches. That sister too soon dies of consumption with the wedding quilt returning to Annette.

Harriet Farley Dunlevy (1817-1907)
from a biography in the American Phrenological Journal 1853

Most sources consider Harriet Farley the author of "The Patchwork Quilt." A look at her family history reveals that a sister Elizabeth Farley Dustin, three years younger, had died of tuberculosis at 24 a year before the article appeared.

Sometime in the 1850s Harriet married widowed printer and publisher John Haye Donlevy (born in Ireland about 1820-1872.) She lived in New York the rest of her life, mother to several stepchildren including Alice Heighes Donlevy (1846-1929) who became a well-known artist and educator. The famous patchwork quilt was probably used and used up by those children.

Harriet's obituary from the Brooklyn Eagle, 1907
She and her husband are buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery.

Read "The Patchwork Quilt" here:


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