Mary Black’s Family Quilts

Mary Black’s Family Quilts:
Meaning and Memory in Everyday Life


by Laurel Horton
Foreword by Michael Owen Jones
Published by the University of South Carolina Press, 2005

After examining this book, I turned to my shelf of quilt studies to confirm that the work I had here was indeed different from the rest…. In no volume on my bookshelf are quilts presented as three-dimensional objects and processes inviting behavioral analysis. …Readers will come away from Mary Black’s Family Quilts with a much greater appreciation of the reasons for undertaking quilting in the first place, and will very likely be inclined to reconsider their assumptions about meanings gained from surface examinations of two-dimensional quilt designs.

—Simon J. Bronner, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg; Western Folklore 66, no. 3 & 4 (2007): 411-13.


Horton’s richly detailed and well-illustrated chronicle of 16 quilts that have descended Through a South Carolina family provides a fine example of the art of writing history through objects. … Always faithful to the imperatives of local history, Horton’s book repeatedly connects the immediacy of the objects to broad patterns in American social, economic, and cultural history. …An effective introduction to material culture studies through the example of quilts. Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates; faculty.

—B. L. Herman, University of Delaware; Choice 44, no. 1 (September 2006).

Historians who are unaccustomed to using artifacts as primary sources might find this book particularly instructive. Laurel Horton reads and interprets a collection of sixteen quilts that belonged to one South Carolina family over six generations. …Horton surrounds the material culture evidence with research in written secondary and primary sources to produce a rich social history rooted in the particulars of family and place that spans three centuries.

—Lu Ann Jones, University of South Florida; Journal of Southern History 73, no. 2 (May 2007): 458-59.

The reader is taken on a journey through two centuries of settlement in the South Carolina upcountry, and the sixteen quilts are the thread that holds the narrative together—a narrative that involves family dynamics, social history, economic turbulence, religious devotion, and personal struggle. …This is a work of folklore scholarship at its most effective—highly intimate, well researched, and tightly focused, while maintaining a clear sense of the larger whole.

—Saddler Taylor, McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina; South Carolina Historical Magazine (2006): 167-69.

Laurel Horton takes the reader through changes in styles, materials, and functions of the quilts made by women in Black’s family. …This is a great historical read with quilts as the unifying element.

—Jane Dylan, Piecework (September/October 2006): 10.

This book brings together the author’s meticulous research, thoughtful interpretation, and stylish writing to set a new standard for the study of quilts and quiltmaking as material behavior within the everyday lives of ordinary people.


Recent Posts