Quilts have long been associated with the American pioneer experience. While some women certainly made quilts during migrations westward, this was likely a phenomenon of the late 19th and 20th centuries, rather than of colonial America or the Early Republic.

Photographers such as Russell Lee, who documented the plight of rural Americans as part of the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration, liked to pose women with their quilts, accentuating the relationship of hardworking Americans to this creative act of stitching together bits of fabric to make a useful whole. Mrs. Bill Stagg made this quilt using a popular commercially available pattern featuring state birds. Lee's full caption read: "Mrs. Bill Stagg with state quilt that she made, Pie Town, New Mexico. A community settled by about 200 migrant Texas and Oklahoma farmers who filed homestead claims ... Mrs. Stagg helps her husband in the field with plowing planting, weeding corn and harvesting beans. She quilts while she rests during the noon hour." Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Mrs. Bill Stagg
Russell Lee