November 28, 2011

The Lydia V. Wood Quilt

A current exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is featuring sixteen historical quilts, one attributed to Quaker Lydia V. Wood (1831-1917).  If you are in the area of Winchester, Virginia, stop by and see Daughters of the Stars: Shenandoah Valley Star Quilts and Their Makers.  Wood's quilt was expertly conserved by Pam Pampe for the exhibit, which extends through January 8, 2012.  (For more information, go to

Photograph by  Mary Holton Robare.

Lydia V. Wood's quilt is the large one pictured above on display during the Virginia Quilt Museum's 2008 exhibit, Quilts and Quaker Heritage.  (The smaller ca. 1850 quilt in the forefront was made by Thamasin Haines Walker, collection of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.  The dress was loaned by Hopewell-Centre Meeting in Clearbrook, Virginia.) 

Lydia's quilt, measuring 95 X 96 inches, contains eight-pointed stars and half-square triangles that alternate in a Hanging Diamond set, creating the illusion of diagonal lines. 

Photograph by Mary Bywater Cross.

A variety of fabrics were used in the quilt.  Today, the overall impression of its now-muted colors is of blue-grays and tans.

Photograph by Mary Bywater Cross.

Of particular note is the quilt's handwoven fringe.

Quiltmaker Lydia V. Wood was the daughter of Jessie and Hanna (Hollingsworth) Wood of Winchester, Virginia.  In 1855, Lydia transferred her membership in the Hopewell Monthly Meeting in Virginia to the Springboro Monthly Meeting in Ohio.  According to a historical marker in Springboro, Lydia "raised Nathaniel Hunter, a black orphan who later became the private secretary of the well-known black educator Booker T. Washington."  (See   This would be an interesting topic for further research.

Wood's quilt was a gift to the Museum of the Shanandoah Valley from noted quilt historian Mary Bywater Cross.  It originally descended from the Wood family of Winchester, Virginia, through two generations of nieces to Nan Wood Graham, who presented it as a gift to her friend Mary.  Graham was the sister of the famed American artist Grant Wood and the model for the "farmer's daughter" in his iconic 1930 painting, American Gothic.

Nan Wood Graham with the quilt made by Lydia V. Wood.
Photograph by Mary Bywater Cross.

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2011

November 6, 2011

Example of Quaker Date Notation

Fallen tombstone of W. P. Clemson, a member of Philena Cooper
Hambleton's step-father's family.  Taken at the Sandy Spring Monthly
Meeting Cemetery, outside of Hanoverton, Ohio.

November 5, 2011

Quaker Date Notations

How do you know whether or not a signature quilt was made and/or inscribed by a member of the Religious Society of Friends?  If you are lucky enough to know the provenance of the quilt, its Quaker origin may have been revealed by its history or as part of a family tradition associated with the quilt.  Without the benefit of such information, however, your only clue may be the date(s) inscribed on the quilt.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century Quakers did not use the names of the months and the days of the week when recording dates.  Instead, they substituted the numbers that represented the numeric placement of months within the year and days within the week.  For example, April 23, 1845 could be recorded as 23rd of 4th mo. 1845, or as 23rd day 4th mo. 1845, or as 23rd of 4th 1845.  The same date might also appear as 4th mo. 23rd or fourth mo. 23.  There were many variations of this dating method used in correspondence, on legal documents, in Quaker records, and as inscriptions on quilts.

Block from the Cather-Robinson quilt, 1848.  Collection of the
Willa Cather Institute of Shenandoah  University.

Detail of Cather-Robinson quilt showing signature and date
 interpreted as Margaret Ann Johnson  8th mo. 4  1848.

The appearance of a Quaker-style date on a quilt is not proof that an inscribed identity was Quaker.  Some individuals retained this style of dating long after their families left the religion, but a Quaker-style date provides a good clue for further investigation.

The Quakers used numbers instead of the proper names to designate months and days because they felt it was sacriligious to use names derived from those of pagan gods and goddesses or from deified rulers of the Roman Empire.  In the latter case, the months of July and August were named after Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus, adding two additional months to the Roman year which was originally comprised of only ten months.  The names of pagan gods and goddesses provided the origins for January (the Roman god Janus), March (the Roman god Mars), May (the Roman goddess Maia), June (the Roman goddess Juno), and Saturday (the Roman god Saturn).  Monday is related to the moon and special Roman sacrifices offered on that day, Wednesday derives from the Old English for Woden's Day, and Thursday is from the Old English for Thor, the god of thunder.

John Pitts Launey, in his book First Families of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Vol. 1), pages iv and v, points out that the Religious Society of Friends used both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars.  "The Julian Calendar was used for dates before and including October 31, 1751.  During this period, the 1st month was March and the 2nd was April and so on.  On the day following October 31, 1751, the Gregorian Calendar went into affect [sic] and January became the first month as it is today."

Should you be fortunate enough to be researching a dated Quaker quilt made before November 1, 1751, keep this in mind!

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2011