During wartime, the scarcity of essential goods, prolonged absence of loved ones, and the realities of death or disability have made radical changes in the lives of those affected. And even though the political causes of war are national, individuals, families, and communities most profoundly experience the effects. Ironically, war is personal and local.
Throughout American history, women often bore war’s burdens long after a war officially ended. Those on the homefront utilized quilts to resist war’s effects or attempted to heal and mend what was injured or broken. Hundreds of thousands of women deployed quilts to honor their war heroes, to warm hospitalized soldiers, to raise funds for humanitarian relief, and to comfort families whose soldiers never came home.
Whereas quiltmakers have expressed their patriotism in support of war through quilts since at least the 1840s, they also have made quilts to protest war or promote peace, particularly since the 1970s. These quilts, often made for public display, plead for peace and an end to the human costs of war.
Have these hundreds of thousands of quilts encouraged patriotism, healed the ravages of war, recreated what has been annihilated, or prevented future conflicts? Who knows, really? But these quiltmakers did not sit idly by without voicing their political opinions or responding to the brokenness wrought by war. Bono, musician and songwriter with the band U2, uses his music similarly, as a platform to change some of what is wrong in the world. He said, “I just hope when the day is done I've been able to tear a little corner off of the darkness.” For over 150 years, American quiltmakers have been tearing a corner off the darkness of war.