Doing Yarn:

Threading the past to the present with color + texture

I use yarn as a tool to explore and commemorate the suffragist and abolitionist legacies in Rochester, New York, where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass did their work - and where they are laid to rest at Mount Hope Cemetery. What happens when yarn becomes a tool to tell stories and amplify discussions around gender and race in contemporary America? That question and its answers explains why I "do yarn," a phrase concocted by my pre-school-aged daughter. You can follow my fiber adventures on Twitter (@CrochetActivism).

 
 Photo credit: Stephen Reardon

Photo credit: Stephen Reardon

Yarn 'balming' - not 'bombing'

As Rochester celebrated the centennial of women's right to vote in New York State, we got to work on a yarn installation in July 2017 honoring the work of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who are represented as larger-than-life figures in the "Let's Have Tea" sculpture around the corner from her historic home, now a museum, in the 19th Ward. Yarn becomes a lively apparatus to highlight their relationship through symbolic and fibrous representations of their history. For instance, the bicycle - pictured above - is in reference to Susan B. Anthony's belief that bikes have "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." Also featured are a crochet "emoji" of the woman herself, alongside her peer Hester Jeffrey, a suffragist and community organizer who gave the eulogy at Anthony's 1906 funeral. The phrase "yarn 'balming'" is credited to Dr. Sarah Kuhn who attended a conference presentation where I was talking on this very topic.

 Photo by Stephen Reardon

Photo by Stephen Reardon

Our Future

Frederick Douglass's cape features the embroidery - by Boston-based costume designer Richelle Devereaux-Murray - of his famous line, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." 

 Photo by Stephen Reardon

Photo by Stephen Reardon

The Revolution

A crochet "newspaper" showcases the slogan of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's newspaper, The Revolution: "Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less."