Musings on knitting, crochet, and a fairly loopy life.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

first ladies who knit

I love knitting. I love history. I love being able to combine the two. I recently read an article from a 2008 issue of The Anchorage Daily News  by Catherine Hollingsworth that discussed the history of knitting in the White House. (Ain't the Internet grand?) Hollingsworth is an interior designer, artist, knitwear designer, and past president of Knitters of the North. She, in turn, drew her information from the book No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. Macdonald (which I will be adding to my wishlist post-haste.

Here they are, your list of needle-wielding, yarn-loving First Ladies:

There are records that Martha Washington (1731-1802) helped with a drive to sell knitted socks to raise money for the troops.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) spoke out against rigidly held stereotypes that women were too "trifle" to do more than knit.

Edith Roosevelt (1861-1948) invited friends to knitting "socials" at the White House, which many Washington insiders feared for the blunt political discourse that occurred at them.

Grace Coolidge (1879-1957) was generous with her knitting, donating to bazaars and benefit raffles.

Lou Hoover (1874-1944) was a self-taught knitter who often wrote her own patterns, called recipes. When a friend spotted a mistake, Mrs. Hoover chided her not to rip it out, but to repeat it in the next row and make a pattern of it. (A woman after my own heart!)

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was perhaps the most famous knitting First Lady. She was such an avid knitter, she dragged her knitting bag everywhere, and was once referred to as “The First Knitter of the Land”. Her passion for knitting led her to unify American women to knit for the troops during World War II. She was so strongly identified with her knitting that an official White House Christmas card portrait included an image of her with her knitting in her hands.
My hat is off to these incredible women who were passionate, generous, patriotic, and sometimes even a little dangerous. They used a "traditional," "womanly" craft to help change their world. Can we do any less?

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