Until 7th grade, my family lived in New England. I have the best memories of growing up in a little town called Boxborough, in Massachusetts.
The colonial history of the area in which I grew up has always fascinated me. Living not far from Concord and Lexington, we field-tripped to all the popular haunts from that historical era.
And of course, as an adult, I look back on the places there that I’ve never been to, but wish I had. Places like Plymouth Plantation. Never been! Martha’s Vineyard – never been! I always think that I’ll go back and see it all with the eyes of an adult – visiting the same places, experiencing new places, and testing whether or not the charm of the area where I grew up is as real to me now as it is in my memory.
When the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston published the book Women’s Work: Embroidery in Colonial Boston, it struck a chord with me. The title encompasses two things I love: my happy memories of the place I grew up and embroidery. So of course, I had to get the book!
But it’s not just the subject matter that compelled me to buy the book. I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover; still, I admit that the cover of this book was the final selling point for me. I think the cover is gorgeous!
Women’s Work is a book that does more than just recount the history of needlework in New England. Highlighting pieces from the collections at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the book tells the tale of six different women in colonial Boston and the role of needlework in their lives and, by extension, in the lives of women in New England from the colonial period. The book is a combination of biography, art studies, sociology, and history, with a smattering of science thrown in at the end. It’s fascinating to read!
The bulk of the book focuses on six and their relationship with needle and thread. Reading about these Bostonians is a good reminder of the important and formative role needlework has played in the lives not only of women throughout history, but of all of our society – how needlework influenced trade and affected social and economic climates. Needlework, you know, is powerful stuff!
The book is predominantly a scholarly book more than anything else. It is loaded with good research and historical information, but it reads gently, like a story.
In addition to the quality writing and research – and this important, because it is, after all, a book about embroidery – the book is jam-packed with beautiful photos of embroidery from the eras discussed.
If the book were made up just of text, I’d still find it interesting, but it would not be as enjoyable. The luscious photos throughout compel the reader to go deeper and deeper into the book!
If you have a love of historical embroidery, if you are mesmerized by samplers of old and embroidered household goods, clothing, and the like from eras past, you will love this book! No, it’s not a technique book. Instead, it’s a book that will give you a deeper appreciation for the art you already love – the art of embroidery.