Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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Philadelphia Sewing Societies

In 1805, The Select Society published rules for the Philadelphia girl’s society as follows: “We are to meet at half-past two, to sew till eight…and that boys shall not be admitted until eight o’clock.” Sewing Societies in Philadelphia were extremely active and productive. The sewing groups went by many different names and served multiple different functions. Sewing Societies were so popular in Philadelphia that merchants ran newspaper ads to attract the societies as customers offering special prices on goods and fabrics such as flannels, woolens, calicoes [sic], muslins, and calico quilts.

The Sewing Societies (also sometimes known as Dorcas Society) were usually associated with a benevolent mission (orphan, school, poor, hospital, missionary) and were frequently also associated with a church. The ladies used their sewing skills to create items to raise money selling at fairs and events “plain and fancy articles” or “useful and fancy articles” as well as quilts. Additionally, in the case of the Female Hospitable Society in 1832 where they ran an ad where the ladies would offer their skills for hire to raise money doing sewing, knitting, spinning, and quilting for hire.

Multiple of these societies submitted reports to the newspapers detailing their accomplishments including funds raised. Additionally, they would list the number of garments made and given away as well as bedding and quilts. The ladies could purchase some of the quilts, since I found ads selling calico quilts to the societies, but one such organization reported making 8 quilts in a year.