By: Lynn A. Bonfield
The daily routine of New England women changed dramatically during the first half of the 19th century. At the beginning of the century the production of cloth and clothing was home-based but by mid-century was concentrated in factories. In 1800 women spent part of every day at home in the work of textile manufacturing; by 1850 few women produced cloth at home. During the same period, as fashions became more complicated, women spent increasing time sewing. An increase in time spent shopping also can be noted as women became consumers of cloth products. Quilting, which was rarely mentioned at the beginning of the century in comparison to the many references to spinning, twisting, and weaving, continued to be a seldom performed activity in contrast with sewing by the 1850s.
This paper focuses on this change for New England women as documented through their own words in diaries, letters, account books, reminiscences, memoirs, and interviews.