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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 2007. Department of Textiles, Clothing & Design.


Copyright 2007, the author. Used by permission.


Beginning in 2003, grassroots quiltmaking projects were founded in the United States in response to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marine Comfort Quilts, founded by Jan Lang, Operation Homefront Quilts, founded by Jessica Porter, and Home of the Brave Quilt Project, founded by Donald Beld, each endeavor to make and give memorial quilts to each family of America’s fallen in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The research for this master’s thesis sought to understand the meanings of making and giving quilts and the meanings of quilts as messengers of comfort and care from quiltmakers to grieving military families. Oral history interviews were conducted with the founders of the three quiltmaking projects listed above and with other quiltmakers who are active within them. Two primary sites of meaning were identified: 1) the internal motivations that inspired quiltmakers to begin and continue participation in a quiltmaking project; and 2) the textual, symbolic, and personal messages invested in and inherent within the quilts. These formed a meaning-making process that effectively delivers the messages of comfort and care in spite of the social and geographical distance between quiltmakers and the military families. The process of quiltmaking has meaning as a therapeutic activity, as an expression of female and maternal identity, and as an activity that express purpose in life. The quilts have meanings as memorials and as material reminders of the care of others. They also have meanings as metaphors for the lost service member. These meanings are created by the memorial labels attached to the quilts, by the hand-written signatures and inscriptions, and by the patriotic symbols included in the designs.

The purpose of this study was to gain insight into: 1) the meanings of making and giving quilts to the families of American military personnel killed in the Afghanistan or Iraq Wars; 2) the meanings and functions of the quilt objects; 3) how quiltmakers’ personal feelings about the wars affected their participation and quiltmaking in these projects; and 4) how motivations for quiltmaking in response to war in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries may differ from earlier times of war.

Advisor: Patricia Cox Crews