Peace and Protest

Following in the footsteps of quiltmakers during the Civil War and World Wars, quiltmakers during the Cold Wardespite the absence of direct fightingmade quilts related to the conflict. Whereas earlier efforts typically were a homefront means of supporting soldiers, Cold War quilts, such as those made by the Boise Peace Quilt Project, aimed to end the conflict by changing attitudes and attracting attention to a cause.

Conceived by Anna Hausrath and Diane Jones in the early 1980s, the Boise Peace Quilt Project began with one quilt to express solidarity with the women of the Soviet Union against nuclear weapon proliferation. It has expanded since to remind and reward public figures about issues ranging from environmentalism to child advocacy.

The group appropriated the quilt’s symbolism of comfort, femininity and joining of disparate pieces to protest the resurgence of Cold War rhetoric. Concerned with the possibility of being labeled communists, they described themselves as “crazy housewives” and as politically naïve while drawing upon the rhetoric of motherhood used by reformers at the turn of the century.1

Of Idaho and Peace, their first quilt, was delivered to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. in 1982. The quilt’s permanent home is with the Soviet Women’s Peace Committee in Moscow. Sociologist Angela Kearns Blain described the choice of quiltmaking as a metaphor. The group pieced fabrics together as they imagined their quilts might help to piece together alienated societies.2 Members of the BQP believed quilts to be a less abrasive way to encourage peace and provoke thoughtfulness on the part of individuals and politicians. This group walked a politically precarious line by choosing a protest medium that pulled from traditional notions of womanhood and incorporated modern concepts of feminism and activism.

1. Angea Kearns Blain, Tactical Textiles: A Genealogy of the Boise Peace Quilt Project, 1981-1989 (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing, 1994), 21.

2. Blain, 2.