Martha’s Mob Cap? A Milliner’s Hand-Sewn Inquiry into Eighteenth-Century Caps ca.1770 to 1800

  • Author / Creator
    Woodyard, Sarah E
  • This thesis seeks to answer the question: “how can the act of hand sewing enable us to contextualize the cap Martha Washington wears in The Washington Family Portrait?” The project reconsiders a style of cap Mrs. Washington wears in the Edward Savage portrait The Washington Family in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Oversimplification of this cap, often thought of as a “mob cap,” highly discredits the quality of materials, workmanship, and cultural meanings that surrounds it. To reassess visual representations of eighteenth-century women in the southern American colonies/states in the last quarter of the eighteenth-century, portraits of Mrs. Washington are investigated and cap styles produced based on primary sources. Using a reflexive auto-ethnographic methodology to mine the making process of eighteenth-century caps, this paper puts forth a new method entitled, “hand-sewn inquiry.” Through a hand-sewn inquiry three facsimile caps were made inserting the researcher’s embodied experience into the study to more holistically understand the cap Mrs. Washington wears. This method brought forth bodily connections to eighteenth-century makers, construction techniques of eighteenth-century caps intended for the maintenance of clothing, and a “sewing literacy” perspective to read the skills of an enslaved seamstress working for Mrs. Washington, as attested in historical documents. The study contextualizes caps observed in portraits of Mrs. Washington, from a historical and material culture perspective reconsidering the significance of these caps through the eyes and hands of a maker.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Material Culture
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Aidan Rowe (Design Studies)
    • Dr. Megan Strickfaden (Human Ecology)
    • Dr. Beverly Lemire (History)