By: Jessica F. Nicoll
In a study of forty-one signature quilts made in the Delaware Valley between 1841 and 1860, twenty-one were found to have been made by Quakers. These quilts are stylistically cohesive forming a distinctive group. Eighteen of the twenty-one Quaker quilts are friendship quilts, usually worked in a restrained palette. Formally the quilts reaffirm the basic tenets of the Quaker faith: simplicity, equality, and community. Detailed genealogical and historical research revealed that the quilts’ makers shared not only religious affiliation but also social and economic circumstances. The majority of the quiltmakers were Hicksites, members of the more traditional of the two Quaker sects, and were farmers or craftsmen. It appears that this group fixed upon the signature quilt as a way to symbolically sustain community in the face of an increasingly mobile and segmented social order.