Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
For centuries silk flowers have been used by different societies as personal and spatial adornments. Flowers, both natural and man-made, have diverse meanings in daily life and rites of passage, accompanying individuals from birth to death. During the nineteenth century, the use of silk flowers gained in popularity and, thanks to the industrialization of textile weaving and the discovery of chemical dyes, silk flowers became available not only to elites but to the growing bourgeoisie, and later, even low-income classes. During this boom, Judith Deschamps and Etiesenne Pucheu met and were married, both of them florists. After the 1851 great fires in San Francisco, California, they decided to settle down in Mexico, where a friend of theirs had established, a couple decades before, the first silk-flower factory in Mexico. Being entrepreneurs, Judith and her husband took the business in their hands and made it stronger, inventing patented machines for different processes and products of their trade. Judith lead the silk-flower production and, as in factories around Europe and the United States, they hired women as workers, making this industry a pioneer in gender equality and women’s empowerment. At least in Mexico, silk-flower making gathered women from all ages, cultural backgrounds, and social classes. This paper delves into the history of the Pucheu silk-flower factory through the stories of the Pucheu-Deschamps family and their workers from the nineteenth century to date, also exploring the way in which these complex artifacts were created, used, and valued.