By: Kari Ronning
This study examines the kind of quiltmaking activities taking place in a rural, Midwestern area in the period 1880-1920. Webster County, Nebraska, was chosen because it is one of the representative sites chosen by the Nebraska Quilt Project; extensive primary sources such as newspapers of the period are available; unique literary materials are available since the area is depicted in many of Willa Cather’s novels. The newspapers of the period record quilts, quiltmakers, quilting parties, charitable quilting activities, and county fair results; the newspapers also advertise the goods available to quiltmakers and their prices. The frequency and content of the newspaper records help to document the changes in quiltmaking fashions, revealing that Webster County followed the eastern, urban fashions in the 1880s when it was still a frontier community; despite the improvements in mass communication which took place in the early years of the twentieth century, the revival of quiltmaking which was taking place in urban centers did not spread so quickly to this community, where quiltmaking was seen as an activity for older women, and quilts were little valued.