Cultural Tensions

The 1960s and '70s was an era of growing cultural tensions in the US. Strong countercultural, anti-establishment sentiments emerged in the 1960s, signaling a shift from the relative conformity of the 1950s. One major spark for this change was the anti-Vietnam War Movement (1964-1973). Diverse groups of people participated in anti-war protests, including civil rights and women's rights activists, union members, and housewives, but the protests came to be associated with young people and students, some of whom embraced the so-called hippie movement. Hippies generally rejected conventional lifestyles and embraced what they saw as a less materialistic existence and a more peaceful relationship with other humans and with nature. One element of this approach was an emphasis on self-sufficiency and making things by hand, including many forms of sewing and textile creation. In this setting of craft-focused self-reliance, patchwork and quilting were rediscovered and incorporated into both fashion and home decoration. 

In this same era, many in the US felt that the American life hippies were rejecting was just fine the way it was. This "silent majority"—everyday citizens who largely supported the social, political, and cultural status quo—disagreed with protesting the war and argued that traditional American values, including patriotism, needed to be upheld. Patriotic fervor built throughout the '70s and culminated in nationwide celebrations of the US Bicentennial in 1976. As always, quiltmaking was affected: patriotic quilts were made by the thousands and many people who had never made a quilt before picked up the hobby, adding to the rapidly growing number of American quiltmakers.