The Age of Homespun
Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679766445, 512pp.)
Publication Date: November 12, 2002
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They began their existence as everyday objects, but in the hands of Bancroft Award-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, fourteen domestic items from preindustrial America–ranging from a linen tablecloth to an unfinished sock–relinquish their stories and offer profound insights into our history.
In an age when even meals are rarely made from scratch, homespun easily acquires the glow of nostalgia. The objects Ulrich investigates unravel those simplified illusions, revealing important clues to the culture and people who made them. Ulrich uses an Indian basket to explore the uneasy coexistence of native and colonial Americans. A piece of silk embroidery reveals racial and class distinctions, and two old spinning wheels illuminate the connections between colonial cloth-making and war. Pulling these divergent threads together, Ulrich demonstrates how early Americans made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert their identities, shape relationships, and create history.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. Formerly a professor of American history at the University of New Hampshire, she is the author of Good Wives (1982) and numerous articles and essays on early American history. She won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991 for A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785--1812. Born and raised in the Rocky Mountain West, she has lived in New England since 1960. During her tenure as a MacArthur Fellow, she assisted in the production of a PBS documentary based on A Midwife’s Tale. Her work is also featured on an award-winning Web site called dohistory.org. She and her husband, Gael Ulrich, are the parents of five grown children.
“Eloquent, imaginative. . . . The creativity and vigor that made A Midwife’s Tale an instant classic are also present [here].”--Newsday
“With The Age of Homespun, [Ulrich] has truly outdone herself.”--The New York Times Book Review
"Remarkable . . . [Ulrich] performs like a virtuoso, conjuring up the small details she then weaves into her larger stories. . . . She dazzles." —Chicago Tribune
"Lively and captivating. . . . [Ulrich] quilts a new narrative, one that both probes and explodes the myths surrounding the idealized era of 'homespun.'" —Los Angeles Times