Quilts and Human Rights


Quilts and Human Rights

Marsha MacDowell, Mary Worrall, Lynne Swanson, and Beth Donaldson
Foreword by Desmond Tutu

232 pages
105 color photographs


August 2016


$39.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Quilts and Human Rights offers a new understanding of the history of global human rights as seen through textiles of awareness and activism. Of all the textile forms linked to human rights activities, one form—the quilt—has proved an especially potent and popular form for individuals, working alone or as part of organized groups, to subversively or overtly act for human rights. Through a description of this activity over time and space, Quilts and Human Rights advances awareness of critical human rights issues: suffrage, race relations, civil wars, natural disasters, HIV/AIDs, and ethnic, sexual, and gender discrimination. Quilts and Human Rights pays tribute to the individuals who have used needle skills to prick the conscience and encourage action against human rights violations.  

Author Bio

Marsha MacDowell is the curator of folk arts and a professor of art and art history; Mary Worrall is the curator of cultural heritage and an education co-manager; Lynne Swanson is an assistant curator of folk arts and cultural collections manager; and Beth Donaldson is the collections assistant for quilts and a digital cultural resources manager; all are located at Michigan State University Museum. These authors have worked together on many quilt-related exhibitions, research, educational programs, and collection activities. MacDowell, Worrall, and Donaldson lead the Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org), an international digital repository of thousands of images and stories about quilts and their makers. Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop.


"Highly recommended for all audiences, Quilts and Human Rights would illuminate any library."—Kathy Edwards, ARLIS/NA Reviews

"A remarkable addition to quilt studies."—Shane Rasmussen, Journal of Folklore Research

"This moving and important book chronicles the work of countless quilt artists who have used their talent and passion to address an array of human rights issues. Photos of the quilts are accompanied by detailed artist's statements that thoughtfully explain the genesis of each piece. Telling these stories in cloth is a powerful and effective means of expression to spotlight critical human rights issues."—Diane Rusin Doran, Machine Quilting

“This well-researched and important book sheds new light on the work of thousands of quilt artists who have used needle, thread, and cloth for advocacy, education, and reflection on human rights.”—Rev. Canon Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation

“Beautifully written, with a venerable combination of straightforward expression and intellectual sophistication, Quilts and Human Rights successfully bridges the fields of women’s studies and visual arts with a brilliant survey of national and international human rights quilts.”—Carolyn L. Mazloomi, founder and director of the Women of Color Quilters Network 

Quilts and Human Rights tells superbly scaffolded stories about the powerful intersection of threats and threads.”—Patricia A. Turner, author of Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
A Quilted Conscience
A Gallery of Quilts

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