On June 4, 1919, U.S. Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote, and sent it to the states for ratification. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, we are featuring an essay by Stacy C. Hollander, senior curator and director of exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum, on an anonymous 19th-century artist’s “Crazy” quilt (i.e., a quilt with no repeating motifs) and its message about women’s suffrage.

Artist unidentified; initialed “J.F.R.” | Cleveland-Hendricks Crazy Quilt, Cleveland-Hendricks Crazy Quilt | American Folk Art Museum, folkartmuseum.org

The constitutional amendment giving the vote to American women was not ratified until 1920. Therefore, the unidentified maker of this quilt voiced her political sentiments in one of the only socially acceptable means available to her in the late nineteenth century. Using the idiom of the Crazy quilt, she constructed a strong statement of Democratic sympathies in a highly fashionable format.