Keynote Address

Embedding: Putting Hadassah Chapin Ely’s Wholecloth Quilt in Context

Marla Miller

In 2009, Historic Deerfield acquired a wholecloth indigo blue, glazed twill-weave wool (shalloon) quilt, ornamented with flowers, leaves, vines and other decorative elements. Family tradition holds that the quilt was associated with Hadassah Chapin Ely, (1767-1808), a Springfield, Massachusetts native who was a direct descendent of the celebrated Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598-1675). Hadassah married Elihu Ely in 1785, and the couple had eleven children; over time her quilt would make its way through the households of descendants across New England. But very little is known about the quilt, including the date of its construction or anything else about its creation. This paper will seek to better illuminate this stunning example of early American quilting by situating it in a series of contexts, including other surviving quilts that are comparable to this one; beds and bedding in post-Revolutionary Springfield (and West Springfield, Ely’s home once wed); the drama of Shays Rebellion, in which Ely and her family were firmly enmeshed; and the history of the quilt as it passed through family hands and ultimately into the collections of Historic Deerfield.

Marla Miller’s primary research interest is U.S. women’s work before industrialization. Her book The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution appeared from the University of Massachusetts Press in August 2006, and won the Costume Society of America’s Millia Davenport Publication Award for the best book in the field for that year. In 2009 she published an edited collection Cultivating a Past: Essays in the History of Hadley, Massachusetts, also with the University of Massachusetts Press. Her book Betsy Ross and the Making of America (Holt, 2010), a scholarly biography of that much-misunderstood early American craftswoman, was a finalist for the Cundill Prize in History at McGill University (the world’s largest non-fiction historical literature prize), and was named among the Washington Post’s “Best of 2010.” Her most recent publication, a short biography of Massachusetts gownmaker Rebecca Dickinson, appeared in the Westview Press series “Lives of American Women” in summer 2013. She is presently completing work on a microhistory of women, work and landscape in Federal Massachusetts. Marla directs the Public History Program at UMass Amherst, where she teaches courses on material culture, museum and historic site interpretation, and history communication.

Saturday Lunch Speaker

Putting Human Faces on the Textile Industry: The Workers of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company

Robert B. Perreault

Daily life for the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company’s textile worker was not easy. Robert Perreault sheds light on how people from a variety of European countries as well as from French Canada made the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society and how that change affected families, cultures, the nature of work, and relationships among workers themselves.

Since 1973, Manchester, N.H. native and lifelong resident Robert B. Perreault has worked in various capacities to promote Manchester’s history and New England Franco-American culture. His works of nonfiction and fiction, written in French, in English or in both languages, include six books and more than 150 articles, essays, short stories, etc., published in the U.S., Canada or France. He is the author of a French-language novel, L’Héritage (1983), whose setting is Manchester’s Franco-American community, and of a post-card history entitled Manchester (2005). His most recent book, Franco-American Life and Culture in Manchester, New Hampshire: Vivre la Différence, was published in 2010 by the History Press in Charleston, South Carolina. He is a member of the first graduating class in SNHU’s M.F.A. in Fiction/Nonfiction program (2008) for which his thesis is a novel entitled “A Marriage Made in Purgatory.”

Welcome Event

Please join us as we welcome you to New Hampshire at our opening event on Thursday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown. After you mingle with old and new friends at a reception serving light hors d’oeuvres accompanied by a cash bar, the doors will open to a quilt turning presented by members of the New England Quilt Study Group. We will celebrate the heritage of New England through an examination of the region’s quilts. Quilters and collectors will bring out some of their favorite quilts that represent the development of our quilting tradition. Do enjoy dinner on your own before or after this event.

Chintz, Calamanco, and Cotton: Quilts of New England

Special Exhibit

New England quilts have a feel all their own. From finely-wrought four-poster cut-outs demonstrating extraordinary needle skills to thick utility quilts used to keep warm on a cold winter night, quilts were found in all levels of society. Fabrics range from the finest imports just off of the boats to scraps from the many local fabric mills. This collection of approximately two dozen nineteenth century quilts is designed to give you a taste of the diversity and uniqueness of quilts from this region.

Research Workshop

Moving Forward with Your Quilt Research

Publications Committee $15

Have a great idea and don’t know where to begin your research? Searched the genealogy and don’t know what to do with it? Need some guidance to make sense of your data? The Publications Committee will present brief topical discussions of research methods  and paper preparation. Then we will divide into small groups to discuss your projects. Participants will come with a project in mind or underway and leave with renewed commitment and direction.  Please join us on Saturday afternoon.

Poster Session


The poster session is a venue for presenting members’ ongoing research projects to fellow Seminar participants. View displays of research questions, methods, and preliminary results that invite dialogue with colleagues. Poster presenters will be available to discuss and field questions about their research for the entire session. Make time in your schedule to attend this engaging event on Saturday afternoon. Included in your Seminar registration fee.