01 September 2006

Mormon Quilt Books

I recently finished reading two books about quilts made by Mormon women, Quilts & Women of the Mormon Migrations by Mary Bywater Cross and The Salt Lake City 14th Ward Album Quilt, 1857 by Carol Holindrake Nielson.

While there are a lot of similarities between the two books, and even some women who are in both books, they are also quite different from each other. Cross' book covers a much broader time period and a wider variety of women; there is also a lot of diversity in the quilts she documents. The 14th Ward Quilt book had by far the most interesting story and the potential for the most interesting book, but I think it might have been a better book if it had been done by Cross instead of Nielson.

As Julie said in her review of the 14th Ward book a few months ago, Nielson is not a historian. Cross is a quilt historian and clearly knows far more about quilts and the time period (although she might not have done any better dealing with polygamy than Nielson did). Nielson had an interest in the quilt and put a lot of time and effort into the book and produced and interesting book, but I somehow felt like it could have been more. (I felt the same way about The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff- an important and interesting topic, but it would have been better in the hands of another author.)

Still that doesn't mean that the 14th Ward book shouldn't be read; in fact, I recommend it. Nielson writes about both the historically well-known and historically insignificant women who contributed to this fascinating quilt. The story of how the quilt itself came into Nielson's hands makes for an intriguing tale. Both books are particularly interesting if you have an interest in quilting itself, although that aspect is not played up too much in either book- the women are the focus in both.

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