Learning History From Quilts
A special donation of a historical quilt linked to Kent spurred the Kent Historical Society to offer an event dedicated to quilt history. Sue Reich of Washington, an author and lecturer on quilt history, demonstrated the use of quilts as a historical research tool as part of the Kent Historical Society’s Sunday Series on Jan. 19, 2014 at the Kent Town Hall.
Reich has been a quiltmaker since childhood. She lectures widely on many aspects of quilt history, and is a certified American Quilt Society quilt appraiser. She co-authored “Quilts and Quiltmakers Covering Connecticut” and authored “Quilting News of Yesteryear: One Thousand Pieces and Counting,” as well as “Quilting News of Yesteryear: Crazy as a Bed-Quilt”, “World War II Quilts”, “Quiltings, Frolicks and Bees” and “World War I Quilts.”
The main quilt discussed is a recent donation to KHS. It is a signature quilt that dates back 120 years has been returned to town. Embroidered with the date 1894, it belonged to the Rev. Benjamin Mead Wright at the time of his retirement as pastor of the First Congregational Church of Kent in 1896.
The quilt was handed down in his family, where it remained until 2012, when KHS Board members Dick and Charlotte Lindsey met his grandson, Stanley Wright, in Norwalk. Wright felt strongly that the quilt should be returned to Kent. It was on display during that fall at the church and then transferred to the Historical Society. At the time of this recent donation it was assumed that the quilt had been made as a retirement gift for Rev. Wright by his congregation, but close examination by Ms. Reich has now led us to believe that may not be the case. The more we study the quilt, the more questions we have. We’re digging into family histories, old newspaper stories, church records and more.
The society hopes that this presentation will spark renewed interest in the stories that quilts can tell. KHS held a Quilt Discovery Day in April 2014, to which people brought their own treasured quilts for Ms. Reich to evaluate.