By: Valerie S. Rake
From the late 1930s through the 1960s, when quiltmaking declined among most Americans, Mennonite women increased their quiltwork. Because they maintained a strong tradition of quiltmaking, Mennonite women were able to produce large numbers of quilts wanted for sale at bazaars and auctions when demand for them rose beginning in the 1970s. By preserving and expanding their tradition of quiltmaking, Mennonite women created the groundwork for an effective system of money-making in support of worldwide Mennonite missions and service. They also provided a rich source of new quilts for late-twentieth-century quilt lovers. This paper focuses on the formation and transformation of Mennonite women’s Sewing Circles in Wayne County, Ohio, from the 1890s through the early 1990s. It is based on archival research and oral history interviews with women’s sewing groups in five Mennonite churches.