Fishermen’s Wives and Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rugs, 1923-1938
Sadie’s Winter Dream is the marvelous and uplifting story of how creativity changed fishermen’s wives along the coast of Maine. The women became creative through the humble medium of hooked rugs; this allowed them to feel that they, indeed, had something to offer the world. As one rug hooker noted “I never thought I would live to see the day when I could do something somebody else would really want and value.”
The book begins with the founding of the Mission in 1905, its early years, and the incredible challenges that needed to be addressed. The goal was to improve the lives of the fishermen and their families; poverty, isolation, poor health care, and limited education were endemic. These efforts gave rise to the Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rug Program. The program was begun in 1923 by Alice Peasley, assistant missionary. She taught the women how to hook rugs, she sold their rugs, and put much need money into their pockets. But more important than that, she opened the women’s eyes to the beauty around them: their lives were forever changed.
The above image is a close-up of a larger rug. In Sadie’s Winter Dream you will learn why the fishermen’s wives used many images of wild and domestic animals, as well as why they often had images of homes with impossibly large windows, as in the following images.
The above chair seat is the Missions most recent hooked rug “find”. It was generously donated to the Mission by Bob Stanwood who found it at a country auction a number of years ago. We have named this wonderful mat The Hope, after the Mission’s first boat, a twenty-six foot sloop. The chair seat has the Maine Sea Coast Mission label on the back. The boat in this chair seat is very similar to the one in the Jolly Little Sloop with the Hills of Bar Harbor, see below.
Are their more Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rugs out their? I suspect there are.
I recently found a video which was a treasure trove of images about Maine Sea Coast Mission hooked rugs. If you are a rug hooker or have an interest in how Mission hooked rugs were made, please take a look at the following photos. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the photos, but I got them by stopping the video and then taking a photo of the image on the computer. I am working on a better way, but in the meantime…
In the first image you can see the hand of a Gouldsboro woman hooking a rug. In the foreground are wide strips of material that the woman is using to hook her rug. In the video I was impressed with the lightening speed of the rug hooker, definitely not a leisurely occupation. In the second image you can see more clearly the difference between the sheared rug and the more recently hooked and unsheared loops (light colored material foreground.) The women obviously sheared the rug loops as they went along. Shearing was done by taking a scissor and cutting the tops off the loops. Most Maine Sea Coast Mission hooked rugs were sheared, leaving a soft velvety nap.
Judith has spoken at numerous historical societies, libraries, the Maine Antique Dealers Association, and rug hooking events. Contact her for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles about Sadie’s Winter Dream have been published in The Magazine Antiques, Rug Hooking Magazine, Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors, and Chebacco: The Magazine of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.
Excerpt of Book
See an excerpt of
Sadie’s Winter Dream
Praise for Sadie’s Winter Dream
Thanks to Judith Burger-Gossart’s outstanding research, an intriguing piece of downeast Maine history has been brought to light. This book is about rugs, yes, but it is also a remarkable story of community, art and hard living—and a determined woman named Alice M. Peasley
—CARL LITTLE, author of Art of the Maine Islands and other books
These rugs are beautiful, moving and somehow even heroic. Had their story not been recovered we would all have been much the poorer.
—ELIZABETH POCHODA, Editor The Magazine Antiques
This book is a collection of diaries worked in wool. The mothers, aunties, and grannies along Maine’s coast and the outer islands all unknowingly created autobiography while they thought they were providing warmth over cold floors or something to set their rocker on by the wood stove.
—SUZANNE RANKIN, Director Matinicus Island Historical Society
Close-up photos of Maine Sea Coast Mission hooked rugs made by fishermen’s wives.
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About the Author
Judith Burger-Gossart has received degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University Teachers College, and the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She has curated hooked rug exhibits, written articles and catalogues on rug hooking, and given numerous talks on the subject. She is an author and antique dealer, and designs and makes hooked rugs. Judith and her husband live in Salsbury Cove, Maine.
The author can be contacted at email@example.com
Visit her on Facebook at: facebook.com/judith.burgergossart