Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nathan Tye

Committee Members

David Vail, Laurinda Weisse, Torsten Homberger


Ephemera;Fahion;Material Culture;Quilting;rural women;Sewing


This thesis examines the textile work and related fashion ephemera and attitudes of rural women in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It considers rural women from the 1920s through the 1950s and examines their lives and their relationship with textiles and, by extension, fashion. Textiles and related ephemera, when properly utilized, provide sources for historical analysis within broader historical research. Through an examination of the developments in early to mid-twentieth century economic, material culture, and domestic spheres, the importance of clothing analysis and the value of textile work as a historical source material proves significant. In many ways, the development of domestic culture and changes in material consumption in consumerism can be tracked through the examination of textile works and related fashion trends. I examine the expectations for American women in the early 20th century as viewed through analysis of unconventional sources and then use textile work and fashion changes to reflect the differences between societal ideals and the reality of life for these women. Through an examination of quilting, paper ephemera such as fashion books, sewing patterns, and magazines, and societal attitudes toward appearance I discuss the nature of rural American womanhood. While a relatively new field of study, fashion and textile history provides a valuable source of information about the changes in society reflected within the structure and shape of the garments being worn.

Included in

History Commons



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