Monday, November 11, 2013

Red Cross Quilts

As Americans agonized over their soldiers on the front in 1917, a quilting revival took wing. Women’s magazines encouraged quilters with the slogan: “Make quilts—save the blankets for our boys over there.” Individuals and organizations expressed their patriotism by stitching quilts for the Red Cross. Thousands of these comfort quilts went to Europe to the victims of World War I. Stitching comfort quilts at home was a way to support the war effort, and Montanans were especially involved. Also at this dark time, communities and organizations created hundreds of signature Red Cross quilts as fund-raisers. The Ladies Auxiliary of the United Commercial Travelers in Great Falls made one of these quilts in 1918.

Montana Historical Society museum collection. Click the photo for a bigger version.
According to practice, businesses or individuals purchased space to have their names embroidered on the quilt. Prices for a space ranged from twenty-five cents to one hundred dollars depending on where the name was placed. Auxiliary members donated the materials, did the all sewing and quilting, and stitched more than thirteen hundred names on the front and back. They then raffled the quilt, hoping to make one thousand dollars. They did even better, and in December of 1918, a total $1,060.80 went to the Cascade County Chapter of the American Red Cross. These quilts often came back to their makers. In 1926, the Ladies Auxiliary purchased the quilt from the raffle winner and, a few years later, gifted it to the Montana Historical Society where it is part of the museum collection.

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