Explore how and why sentimental sewing—or adding a moral message—was used by Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionists, and activists historically as a way of speaking out at a time when their voices were often excluded from public forums.
Our Sewing and Learning Workshop includes discussion of the ethics of craft materials, a step-by-step craft instruction, research on the histories embedded in the abolitionist political stitch, and inspirational work from contemporary craft-activist, or “craftivist,” artists.
Mariah Kupfner, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of American Studies & Public Heritage at Penn State Harrisburg. She received her Ph.D. in American & New England Studies from Boston University, where her dissertation research focused on the political uses of American women’s decorative needlework. Her current book project examines core themes of the developing women’s movement in the United States from 1820 to 1920—the abolition of slavery, women’s property ownership, education, political identity, and suffrage—through the lens of decorative needlework. She brings particular attention to the racialized and classed construction of femininity and its relationship to nostalgic material forms. Her research recaptures the significant contributions that needleworkers made to women’s cultural and political activism and considers gender as a crafted form. She is also working on a project that considers the relationship between textile mending practices and politics of repair, redress, and feminist re-imagining.
Before Penn State Harrisburg, Kupfner worked as a curatorial fellow at Historic New England and was the program coordinator for the Boston University Undergraduate Public Humanities Fellowship. Having worked in public humanities, public history, and the museum field, she is deeply committed to publicly engaged scholarship. Her work has appeared in the Winterthur Portfolio and the Material Culture Review and in public-facing venues like Nursing Clio and Contingent Magazine (under the name “Mariah Gruner”). She serves as co-chair for the Material Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association and continues to work with museums and historic sites.