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Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois - ISM Museums and Galleries

  Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois   

Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois

The Illinois State Museum Lockport Gallery’s new exhibition presents a fresh perspective on the Civil War by uncovering the fascinating stories of Illinois women who rigorously supported their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and friends from the home front. Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois reveals the hidden accounts of these devoted women. The exhibition will be on display at the ISM Lockport Gallery through October 17, 2014.

In the days following the April 1861 Confederate bombardment on Fort Sumter, dedicated men from Illinois rushed to join the Union Army. With vigor equal to the enlisting men, loyal women of Illinois organized to support the soldiers on the field and in the hospital, as they braced themselves for the changes in family and community life the war would bring.

Following the Union defeat at the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, President Lincoln issued an appeal for quilts, other bedding, clothing, and foodstuffs for the Union troops. While Illinois women made or gathered quilts for the soldiers, they also created highly decorated quilts for fund-raising auctions to support the war effort. Soldier's quilts wore out with hard use, and few have survived. However, other quilts of the era that have been carefully preserved help tell the stories of these most trying of times. The twenty Civil War-era quilts in the exhibition provide a passage through which to explore the lives and wartime support activities of the women who made them.

Each quilt on exhibit has its own unique story and individual attributes, even though they were collectively created in the same time period. One is a particularly rare quilt that has recently received national attention: a Log Cabin quilt from Anna, Illinois, that was pieced together with fabrics including scraps from both Union and Confederate uniforms. The uniform scraps reportedly belonged to the maker's sons who fought on both sides of the war. An album quilt on display was made by Martha Jane Gourley (Gehlman), a close neighbor of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. Miss Gourley's friends and family, whose names adorn this quilt, are from northern as well as southern states, representing the range of families who settled the "West," as Illinois was then considered.

In addition to the quilts, a wide variety of artifacts demonstrate the expansive range of women's work for the war.

Curated by Angela Goebel-Bain, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, Illinois State Museum.

CLICK to Press Release for more information.

Learn about other exhibitions currently at the ISM Museums and Galleries.


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