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The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American… (2001)

por Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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519934,649 (3.79)21
Using objects that Americans have saved through the centuries and stories they have passed along, as well as histories teased from documents, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich chronicles the production of cloth--and of history--in early America. Under the singular and brilliant lens that Ulrich brings to this study, ordinary household goods--Indian baskets, spinning wheels, a chimneypiece, a cupboard, a niddy-noddy, bed coverings, silk embroidery, a pocketbook, a linen tablecloth, a coverlet and a rose blanket, and an unfinished stocking--provide the key to a transformed understanding of cultural encounter, frontier war, Revolutionary politics, international commerce, and early industrialization in America. We discover how ideas about cloth and clothing affected relations between English settlers and their Algonkian neighbors. We see how an English production system based on a clear division of labor—men doing the weaving and women the spinning--broke down in the colonial setting, becoming first marginalized, then feminized, then politicized, and how the new system both prepared the way for and was sustained by machine-powered spinning. Pulling these divergent threads together into a rich and revealing tapestry of --the age of homespun,--Ulrich demonstrates how ordinary objects reveal larger economic and social structures, and, in particular, how early Americans and their descendants made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert identities, shape relationships, and create history.… (mais)
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Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her writing often attempts to illuminate the every day lives of those living in the Northeast region of early America, and this book fit that theme. In it, she explores eleven everyday objects that have survived hundreds of years and uses them to study everyday life, cultural trends, political issues, and many other topics. As with all of her books, the focus is on women's lives, which are often not documented to the same extent as their male counterparts.

One of the tenets of this book is that women's "wealth" was typically in moveable objects: linens, kitchen items, small furniture, items of clothing, and decorative luxuries. Men's wealth was in land, business, and education. As such, studying the objects presented in this book is a study of women's lives. The objects studied were created between 1676 and 1837 and include items like an Indian basket, spinning wheels, a pocketbook, a decorative cupboard, a linen tablecloth, and silk embroidery. The items lead to explorations of the settlers interactions with the local Indians (some of the objects are made by Indian women), how women spent their days, what genealogical records leave out about women, the methods of fabric making, spinning as a a political act so as not to rely on England's manufactured goods, and many more topics.

I was interested and excited that there was so much focus on Indian culture (specifically the Abenaki people) in this book, because one of my focuses this year is going to be on reading more books by and about American Indians. This unintentionally fit that category, so it was a good way to start my reading year.

Ulrich's writing won't be for everyone; her style is not the popular narrative nonfiction prevalent today. The writing is scholarly and dense, though I found I got in a pretty good rhythm with it and was able to get immersed in the topic. I suspect her book, [A Midwife's Tale], will always be my favorite, but this is a close second and one I would like to read again some day. There is so much information that it was impossible to absorb it all in one reading.

Original publication date: 2001
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 481 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, favorite author ( )
  japaul22 | Jan 12, 2021 |
An enjoyable read. Fascinating artifacts and incredible research behind the stories. Almost every chapter includes something about local Natives! Finally, someone has written Native People back into American History. On a scale of 1-10 she gets a 12 in book book. ( )
  nedoba | Jan 31, 2011 |
Fun, educating read. I recommend it for anyone interested in any of the "tags" listed below. ( )
  Jeanperry | Nov 28, 2010 |
This book provides a very evocative portrait of a culture. It also makes me long to visit New England museums to see examples of all of these crafts. ( )
  MHelm1017 | Jan 20, 2010 |
Index.
  SHCG | Jun 23, 2009 |
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"You must not go into the burial places, and look about only for the tall monuments and the titled names. It is not the starred epitaphs of the Doctors of Divinity, the Generals, the Judges, the Honourables, the Governors, or even of the village notables called Esquires, that mark the springs of our successes and the sources of our distinctions. These are rather effects than causes; the spinning-wheels have done a great deal more than these." - Horace Bushnell, The Age of Homespun, 1851
"Our fathers wrung their bread from stocks and stones
And fenced their gardens with the Redman's bones." - Robert Lowell, "Children of Light," 1944
"What did they do, our grandmothers, as they sat spinning all the day? Are we nto ourselves the web they wove?" - Anonymous toast; Mary Floyd Talmage Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution; Litchfield, Connecticut, 1910
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If this book were an exhibit, I could arrange it as a room, one of those three-sided rooms you sometimes find in museums, open on one side like a dollhouse, with a little fence or rope across.
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Using objects that Americans have saved through the centuries and stories they have passed along, as well as histories teased from documents, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich chronicles the production of cloth--and of history--in early America. Under the singular and brilliant lens that Ulrich brings to this study, ordinary household goods--Indian baskets, spinning wheels, a chimneypiece, a cupboard, a niddy-noddy, bed coverings, silk embroidery, a pocketbook, a linen tablecloth, a coverlet and a rose blanket, and an unfinished stocking--provide the key to a transformed understanding of cultural encounter, frontier war, Revolutionary politics, international commerce, and early industrialization in America. We discover how ideas about cloth and clothing affected relations between English settlers and their Algonkian neighbors. We see how an English production system based on a clear division of labor—men doing the weaving and women the spinning--broke down in the colonial setting, becoming first marginalized, then feminized, then politicized, and how the new system both prepared the way for and was sustained by machine-powered spinning. Pulling these divergent threads together into a rich and revealing tapestry of --the age of homespun,--Ulrich demonstrates how ordinary objects reveal larger economic and social structures, and, in particular, how early Americans and their descendants made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert identities, shape relationships, and create history.

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