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The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
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The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Using objects that Americans have saved through the centuries and stories they have passed along, as well as histories teased from documents, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich chronicles the production of cloth--and of history--in early America. Under the singular and brilliant lens that Ulrich brings to this study, ordinary household goods--Indian baskets, spinning wheels, a chimney ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published October 30th 2001 by Knopf (first published 2001)
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Lesley Fuller
Ulrich has an immense skill for looking at an object and seeing something far beyond its value as a practical object or collectible. To her, Molly Ocket’s pocketbook does not just tell the tale of ancient twining techniques but “reveals as well the complex history of a people living in the violent borderland between New England and New France” (250). It reflects the combination of cultures, both Abenaki and colonial, and illuminates the story of cultural exchange and conquest. Molly Docket was n ...more
The Age of Homespun displays Laurel Thatcher Ulrich doing the thing she does best: extrapolating entire stories out of seemingly mute objects. By examining the history of a handful of woven objects from colonial and early republic New England, she provides a vivid picture of women's domestic lives during that time and of the influence those lives had on the social and economic well-being of their society as a whole. The research is sound and formidable and the writing engaging.

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A fascinating look at everyday life in New England (17th-19th centuries) through the lens of textiles. Each chapter is centered on an artifact, such as a spinning wheel, basket, tablecloth, embroidered blanket, and branches out from there to topics such as relations between Indians and whites, exchanging labor between households, cultivating silk, knitted stockings, and many more. A scholarly book but since I'm interested in the topic, easy to read. Lots of information on how textile production ...more
Mrs. Riding
Using the history of every day objects, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich shares the history of America from revolution, to western expansion, from homemade to factory created. This is the type of history that makes the people we read about come alive, especially as we see the few treasures that we have gathered from our own family history. I think there are a few places and people written about from my own genealogy and look forward to including the research among the notes for my family.
Laura Kilpatrick
Mar 01, 2013 Laura Kilpatrick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women crafters interested in history
Recommended to Laura by: facebook page about yarn
I liked this book because it tells more of the history of women through the items that women made and valued. Most history is written though men's eyes and therefore consists of wars and triumphs.

I also liked reading about early american indians and how they were absorbed into society and/or wiped out. I hope that they were absorbed and became our ancestors.

I like to knit and crochet and make my own yarn so I could relate to this book.
This was an absolutely fascinating book. It's a history of objects but also a story about the people who made them, a history of the people who don't usually show up in the history books. It gave me a completely new understanding of the early American economy, as well as a bit of a guilt complex about how much easier my life is compared to my 13th great grandmother's. It's slow, dense reading, but well worth the effort.
What Ulrich does for a few objects is remarkable. This is cultural history at its best. A basket (after careful research in dusty archives and historical society vaults) tells a story of war and love and family. I find this approach to history engrossing, however small the scale may seem at first. Ulrich richly weaves her tapestry in deep context. Read this for class; it became a pleasure.
Jan 05, 2009 Pamela is currently reading it
Very dense. Some interesting parts so far. She has a desire to write about the objects but I sometimes feel her thesis -- that "homespun" is somewhat of a myth is forced.

I haven't finished reading this book and it is due back at the library. I think I'm going to return it and read something a bit more fun. Will probably return to this book at a later date.
This was really hard to get through and disappointing for all the hype it has received. As an Americana nerd I felt betrayed that this didn't speak to me at all. It felt more like a series of essays stuck together as a book, and within that there was a good deal of repetition. If one was particularly interested in textiles this might be more "fun."
Sarah Groesbeck
One of the most easily-readable non-fiction books I've read. The author creates a sense of history through the objects she features in each chapter. The last felt a little tacked-on and didn't exactly fit with those preceding it, but that's a minor quibble when considering the overall product.
Great history book on the hidden history of women. How they pass objects such as furniture and linens down from mothe to daughter and even though they tell a story the story is often hidden. And that one must dig deeply to find the hidden history, and the women's names that are behind the items.
Oct 27, 2008 Grace rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
I really loved this book. It takes a bunch of homespun objects/pieces and uses their individual histories to tell a story about the time and place in which they were made. This is exactly the type of history I find compelling, and nobody does it better than Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
One of my favorite books. Dr. Ulrich combines a history of textiles with an exploration of multiple cultural histories, stretching from the creators of the objects to the nineteenth- and twentieth-century audiences that granted them significance in their own lives and worldview.
I love her stories and the way she recreates women's lives, even though there isn't a lot in the proper record. I also get very tied to objects, so it was nice to see it all interwoven here. Sometimes she gets a bit liberal in her interpretations, but I appreciate the passion.
This one is a DNF for me. A little too dense for me at this time. It really felt like reading an archaeology textbook, and though the subject matter is so dear to my heart, I couldn't make myself read it. I do hope to give it another try.
Interesting but heady coverage of textiles in colonial America and the concept of homespun. Will likely return to it at some point for general interest; however it's a bit too academic for the purposes of my book research now.
Aleesha Bass
The stories about these objects are fascinating, but, to no real fault of the author, it can be a bit dry in some parts. Maybe it didn't help that I had to read 100 pages every day for the class assignment...
I would only recommend this for people who are extremely interested in textiles or early American objects. Otherwise it's pretty long and boring, although it does have quite a few interesting threads.
Mar 12, 2013 Cayenne marked it as unfinished
Too dense for me at the moment, but as far as I got it was a fascinating look at early American history and culture.
I'm recusing myself from publicly reviewing anything on early American history. It's a long story.
Kari Gray
Oct 24, 2007 Kari Gray rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History/Colonial Textiles majors
Interesting extrapolations and explanations of how things were done, but, otherwise not for me.
A must read for any interpreter of cultural artifacts.
Fascinating, and a return-to read when I have more time.
Jan 09, 2008 Jennifer marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Another present I haven't gotten into yet.
Brilliant!! Ulrich is genius as usual.
Laurie marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2014
Teri-k marked it as to-read
Nov 22, 2014
Rosella marked it as to-read
Nov 21, 2014
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Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Early New England, 1650-1750 (1982) and A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (1990) which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991 and became the basis of a PBS documentary. In The Age of Homespun ...more
More about Laurel Thatcher Ulrich...
A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History Rachel's Death: Leonard J Arrington Mormon History Lecture Series #9

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