Raffles for quilts and internet, silent, and live quilt auctions, and quilts donated to those in need are each ubiquitous parts of contemporary quilt culture. But these strategies of using quilts for philanthropic ends date to the first half of the 19th century.
The origin of selling women’s hand-crafted items to raise money for social causes coincided with the early 19th-century development of religious organizations, including Sunday Schools, and missionary, women’s relief, abolition and ladies' aid societies. The popularity of using needlework for fundraising and social support took off during the Civil War and its aftermath. Later in the 19th century, ladies' aid societies outside of the church frequently produced quilts as a way to contribute to particular causes, such as temperance or women’s suffrage.
In the early 20th century, the most widely used style for fundraising quilts was redwork, defined as red embroidered designs stitched on a white ground. Fundraising quilts continued to primarily support religious organizations, however, national sentiments such as patriotism inspired by World War I prompted quiltmakers to turn to their needles to show their loyal support.
Today contemporary community and church groups continue this time-honored tradition, raising money for numerous social causes and organizations. Individuals, organized quilt guilds, and informal groups support charitable organizations by making quilts for children in need, those fighting disease, victims of natural disasters, and anyone who might benefit from the comfort of a quilt. Due to their long-standing association with community, warmth, and comfort, quilts have become a perfect medium through which to support charitable organizations.