- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 30, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679445943
- ISBN-13: 978-0679445944
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1851, when theologian Horace Bushnell stood on the village green in Litchfield, Conn., and looked back lovingly on the "Age of Homespun," he was expressing a perennial American nostalgia for the "good old days," when clothing and other necessities were mostly made at home by family labor. Historian Ulrich (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife's Tale) has not set out to deflate the sentimentality that accompanies Bushnell's vision, but rather to trace its genesis and understand how it has weathered the test of time. In her previous works, Ulrich studied the lives of ordinary people, examining their diaries and what they left for probate when they died in order to understand their place in history. Here, under the tutelage of various museum curators, Ulrich shifts toward a material culture study studying objects to understand the people who used them. From 14 artifacts of early American life (baskets, spinning wheels, needlework, etc.), Ulrich uncovers details about their makers and users and the communities they built. Eighteenth-century New England was a battleground of Indian, colonist, slave and European cultures, and each left its mark on the design of these "surviving objects." A quote from Bushnell and an illustration of an object open each chapter. What follows is anything from a rambling digression on a particular cabinet's provenance to a detailed discussion of how dyes were made or flax prepared. As fascinating as the book can be, though, general readers may give up halfway through, finding it frustratingly diffuse and too much of a patchwork. But early Americanists, historical sleuths and "textilians" will delight. 165 illus.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Items produced in the home to be used by their owners and treasured by later generations are worthy of study in their own right, but they also tell us much about those who made and kept them. Ulrich, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, again offers brilliant insights into the lives of early Americans, as she examines their material culture as well as their lives. This engaging combination of women's studies, history, and the study of museum artifacts will delight a wide variety of readers. Chapter by chapter, Ulrich presents interesting early American objects and follows their description with the even more fascinating stories of the people who owned them and the world in which they lived. This work, approachable for the casual reader but based upon firm scholarship, would be a welcome addition to most larger academic and public libraries. Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
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My kind of history book: it takes a handstitched/woven relic & expands on its past & future, reminding us that after the War for Independence, America headed straight into the Industrial Revolution which had historic & life-changing influences on the family unit. Imagine how treadle sewing machines changed women's clothes.
Have given a copy to all the women in my life whether they sew or not, & we talk/email about it. Amazing the attitudes: One of the first reactions was from a friend 16 years older: "Women were such slaves then!" I reminded her that her husband still labors for hours every single day in the fields of their farm.
30 years ago this would have fed the Feminist Fire, today, Feminist though I be, I'm old enough to read it for the information, vision & wisdom it transfers.
However, the chapters are not merely about these artifacts. Instead, Ulrich uses the artifacts as a lens or a vehicle through which she examines the complex social, cultural, economic, and political dynamics of the time period the artifact stems from. Further, Ulrich uses these articles to "write" history--women's history--that has largely been unwritten in history texts.
Each chapter of her text really undermines the myth of an idyllic and pastoral society and provides a fascinating look at the complexity of the times.
This is a scholarly book, and the earlier review that suggests readers may be tempted to give up halfway through is correct. Stick with it though -- there are rewarding insights in the final chapters. Throughout, the early colonial history is fascinating and the personal details are tantalizing.