By: Zoe C. Smith
The quilts of Carrie Chew span six decades of history. As a textile record they are representative of the stylistic changes from the late-nineteenth century to the 1940s. Her lifestyle does not reflect the experience of American quilters who quilted in groups or exhibited in fairs, or expressed social, religious, or political concerns. Carrie’s life expressed itself within the close confines of her family. This paper looks at the historical roots of a homogeneous ethnic background and probes the possibility of cultural discontinuity as a factor motivating the choice of being family centered rather than participating actively in a wider community. Carrie’s quilts read like a history of the fabrics, color preferences, styles, and techniques which evolved during the later-nineteenth century and early twentieth century. They also reflect an awareness of these changes from a home-centered point of view. Census statistics, deeds, church records and histories, and county and city records formed the foundation, and with her quilts, textiles, and a small notebook, provided rich sources for analysis and interpretation.