Kelsey Salvesen, University of Pennsylvania
Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellow
“The Word Became Thread and was Stitched Among Us: Gender, Empire, and Religion in Early North America”
Kelsey’s project examines women’s intellectual and religious history in early North America and the broader Atlantic world through the lens of feminine material culture produced through needlework. She looks at needlework as both practice and product and how it shaped and reflected the lives of girls and women in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. As stitchers grappled with ideas about faith, race, class, and personal and national identity, these struggles played out in their needlework. They also stitched themselves into gendered networks of exchange, which circulated not only the technical expertise necessary to instruct girls in needlecraft, and ideals about appropriate content to stitch, but the physical items themselves. Items like embroidered samplers and other sources of stitched text--made by female hands, typically under female instruction and supervision, and circulated among networks of female friendship and descent--provide unique insight into how girls and young women thought about themselves and their places in their families, their communities, their faiths, and the wider world.