When our country was just becoming an independent nation, women were much more relegated to the "womanly arts" than we are today. But American women were just as patriotic as their male counterparts, and this showed in the subjects of their embroidery and other textile work. Many symbols of American Independence are found in our needlework and folk art. The six main symbols that for over 200 years have acted as common emblems of American independence are the American Flag, the Bald Eagle, the White House, the President, the Goddess of Liberty and Uncle Sam. Many of these symbols have continued to dominate as emblems for our holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. No symbol was more dear to our colonial ancestors than Liberty!
Williamsburg Liberty Toile - reproduction of a textile popular in colonial America.
Lady Liberty, the symbol of freedom as embodied in the female form, had evolved from earlier images that were associated first with the North American continent and later with the English colonies. The figure originally was identified as the American Indian Queen. She is clearly shown as such here.
She is most often shown with an eagle, broken chains and pottery, a cornucopia, images of George Washington, a laurel wreath, a liberty pole and cap, a liberty tree, an olive branch, a rattlesnake, a shield and a stone tablet. The statue of Columbia that used to stand behind the speaker's chair in the House of Representatives is a fine example. In this one we see the Eagle, and on the other side a snake coiled around a Greek column.
Liberty's likeness or a representation of her spirit appears on many pieces of needlework, appliqued quilts
and other forms of folk art from revolutionary times - waving the flag of freedom, holding a cornucopia filled to the brim.
It's easy to trace the sources of the images young ladies used in their needlework...
Depictions with Liberty and images of George Washington abound...
Also called Columbia, she changed over time...
World War I
And eventually, she went out to work...
Columbia Records label, around 1900
And you probably remember this lady from a recent DVD rental...
She has changed, but she is definitely one of the enduring symbols of America!
What symbols would you use to show your independence? What might you create to express your Nationalism? We may not always agree with those in charge of our country, but we are lucky to be in a country that allows us to continue to voice our views and allow us independence to choose what our lives will be.
Happy Independence Day!