Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

Patchwork Lives

Patchwork Lives


For many women their church provided a bedrock foundation of faith that they could turn to in good times and bad. Their strong beliefs and a sense of belonging to the church were often expressed in the themes they chose for their quilts. The vast majority of women were from a Judeo-Christian background and their quilts reflect that faith.

"It seems to me we can never enough praise our Father for leading us to this part of the west, where we have so many congenial Christian friends with whom we can enjoy such sweet communion."
Martha Ann Devoll Mott letter, February 1880, MS1554, Nebraska State Historical Society

Jacob's Ladder

Maker unknown, made in United States
Circa 1880-1900
74.5" x 67.5"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0037

Often women expressed religious beliefs in their quilts, choosing patterns whose names included biblical references like Jacob's Ladder, which refers to a passage in Genesis.

A multitude of fabrics and patterns are used in this quilt's construction, evidence of the wide availability of fabrics in the last decades of the nineteenth century, as textile production became easier and less expensive.

Signature Quilt

Women of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
91" x 81"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Ruth Sherburne, Paxton, Massachusetts, Courtesy of Mary Marriner, Lincoln, Nebraska, 8283-1

It cost twenty-five cents to have your named embroidered on this quilt, made as a fundraiser for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church of Lincoln. Do you recognize any of the 549 names on the quilt? The quilt was an Easter gift to Reverend and Mrs. S. Mills Hayes in 1913.

Delectable Mountains

Maker, location unknown
Circa 1850-1870
97" x 85"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0262

John Bunyan mentions the Delectable Mountains in his seventeenth-century inspirational book, Pilgrim's Progress, a tale of travel, in which the main characters arrive at the Delectable Mountains and find salvation in the beautiful Celestial City. Pilgrim's Progress became popular in the mid-1800s when the "Panorama of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress" was introduced. The panorama, featuring paintings by contemporary artists, was a theatrical event: an 8-foot high by 850-foot long canvas, mounted on wooden rollers, was unfurled in 15 to 30-foot sections accompanied by music and a lecturer as a tour guide. More than 100,000 people viewed the Pilgrim's Progress panorama during its first year in 1850.

Friendship Quilt

The Ladies of the Seward Presbyterian Church, Seward, Nebraska
90" x 77"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Ruth D. Greenwood, Seward, Nebraska, 9418-1

The ladies of the Seward Presbyterian Church made this quilt as a going-away gift for their pastor and his wife, the Reverend and Mrs. Boyd. Members' names, along with the names of Seward businesses, are embroidered on each wagon wheel-shaped block.

Tree of Life
Maker, location unknown
Circa 1890-1910
77" x 62.5"
International Quilt Study Center, Holstein Collection, 2003.003.0331

Often women expressed religious beliefs in their quilts, choosing patterns whose names included biblical references. The Tree of Life is often mentioned in the Bible, particularly in reference to the Garden of Eden, where access to the tree is lost when Adam and Eve succumb to temptation and taste the forbidden fruit.

The pattern is composed nearly entirely of triangles. The "leaves" of the tree are triangles sewn together to create two-color squares. The squares were carefully stitched "on point," in diagonal strips that made up the tree's bower. It took great attention to detail to place the squares accurately to create the rows of colors.

Signature Quilt
Maker, location unknown
77" x 65"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Margaret Reckmeyer and Mrs. Homer A. Miller, Washington, D.C. , 9681-2

Could this quilt have been a fundraising project? The inked names, red and white color scheme, and wheel pattern are all typical of late nineteenth-century fundraising quilts. Many of the names have a connection with the former German Methodist Church in Arlington, Nebraska. It belonged to Mr. and Mrs. William Reckmeyer of Arlington.

Signature Quilt
The Monowi Ladies Aid Society, Monowi, Nebraska
85" x 76"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Faye Christensen, Lynch, Nebraska, 11200-1

Faye Christensen attended a quilt auction in 1928 and came home with this quilt purchased for $12.25. Two hundred and thirty eight members and friends of the Monowi Ladies Aid Society paid ten cents to have their names embroidered on this quilt. The blocks were pieced and set together by Martha Looker, then members of the Society did the embroidery and quilting.

Museum Exhibits

Patchwork Lives

Inspiring the Future


Building a Home


Providing Income


Showing Off


back next


International Quilt Study Center
 Nebraska State Historical Society logo  back next

NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top  |  Back  |  Next
Last updated 28 October 2005  

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved