Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Drunkard's Path c. 1900

I happened upon this quilt at a small vendor area in a parking lot in Glendale, Arizona, a few weeks ago.The blocks are only 2.5". It's hand pieced and quilted. A single indigo print is used throughout.There are 27 inked signatures on this quilt. Their significance? Unknown.

 It has been speculated that this design, worked in blue and white, may have a connection to the Women's Temperance Union, (WCTU), whose official colors are blue and white. Organized in 1874 by women who saw  the tremendous problems alcohol  was causing in both families and in society as a whole, the movement was, in part, a protest about civil rights. At that time women could not vote. A divorced woman had no control of her property or her children. Women and children had no legal protection. Rape was seldom prosecuted and the 'age of consent' was as low as seven in some areas. The WCTU still exists today; in fact it is the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian women's organization in continuous existence in the world.
According to Wilene Smith, on Quilt History Tidbits, this connection has yet to be proven. Check it out for more interesting reading and examples of the many arrangements and names for this block.

She also notes that there are more "T" quilts than any other letter. Do they have a connection toTemperance?
I'll reiterate what Wilene asks; if you have evidence that would substantiate the connection between either the Drunkard's Path or the "T" block quilts to the WCTU please come forward.

Now this one leaves no doubt!

With permission from The Quilt Complex  

By the way, I am hoping someone will come forward with about 650 blue and white quilts for an exhibit. I suggest the midwest....Minneapolis, for instance!


  1. I am enjoying your blog, Jean!

    In 1981, I borrowed a RED and white Drunkard's Path quilt to include in an exhibition.

    Many names were embroidered into the patchwork section; I think following every curved seam.

    The wide red top border was also inscribed in white thread as I recall...

    It read: "WCTU" in large letters, name of chapter in Colorado, I think, and the date (in the 1890's).

    I am in New York just now, but I'll hope to remember to look for a slide of that quilt when I return to California next week.

    Julie Silber

  2. Oh, one more thing...

    We do not (yet!) have 650 examples, but we do offer an exhibition of 25 - 45 19th century indigo and white quilts.

    The exhibition is called "TRUE BLUE," and includes some doozies, including the WCTU quilt you published here.


  3. I have seen that blue and white exhibit and loved it. Get crackin' girl! You have a ways to go to fill an armory! But they are not $10 these days. Love to hear more about that red and white you mention. Maybe someone will tackle the topic in an AQSG paper.

  4. Wow, you've jumped into blogging with both feet. What an interesting d.path signature quilt, have you investigated the names yet? And thanks for sharing Julie's amazing quilt.
    AQS Sandra in Utah

  5. Documenting WCTU connections with quilting seems like a very worthwhile effort to me. For me it's an important part of the larger topic of political or social action quilts. In a day when women's political views could not be expressed at the voting booth, quilts were important ways women could share their opinions. Look at the plethora of quilts with political names.

    A friend just made a T quilt in batiks to celebrate a cousin named Tiffany who will receive her BS in Nursing this month. When she showed it at guild, I remarked on the supposed historic associations of the T quilt with the WCTU.

    The WCTU is of particular importance to me due to my paternal grandparents' association with it. My grandmother was an active member in the organization all her life. My grandfather "took the pledge" and never took a drink of alcohol in his life.

  6. Dorothy,
    How interesting to have a family connection to the WCTU! Perhaps YOU are the one to further the research for the quilt world!


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