Another persistent myth surrounding quilts is that only women make them. As you’ll see throughout this site—with references to male studio artists, male professional quiltmakers, male quilt innovators, male pattern designers, and male quilt activists—this just isn’t true.
Quilts have become feminized in our imagination because of their perceived link to domesticity, considered the “women’s sphere” within the 19th-century’s “cult of domesticity.” Of course, women have historically been the primary quiltmakers, but there are too many examples of male quiltmakers to just consider them the exceptions to the rule.
Why has this myth endured? Historians, feminists, artists, and curators have correctly linked historic American quilts to women’s history. Women indeed have made quilts. Artist Miriam Shapiro, who famously incorporated needlework techniques into her “Femmage” mixed media pieces, proclaimed that, “The quilting tradition illuminates the darkness of women’s history like a torch, showing us the strength and power of women as artist-makers and the consolidation of women as a sharing community.”1 With quilts’ ability to empower women, it is no surprise that we have continued to embrace this form of material culture as distinct to one gender.
1. Miriam Shapiro, “Geometry and Flowers” in The Artist and the Quilt, edited by Charlotte Robinson (New York: Knopf, 1983), 26.