Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Rabbit Holes of Research

How I got from Clara R. Brian to Richard Hofstadter!

Youngest daughter Lori studying an old embroider sampler my father found in the old family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley after he inherited the house in 1974.

I never know where my textile history research will lead me -- but for 30 years it has truly been an amazing journey of learning about subjects I never dreamed I might pursue. 

Here is just one example of where my research on quilt pattern columns in newspapers in the 1930s led when I visited quilt historian Wilene Smith's Quilt History Tidbits -- Old & Newly Discovered website today.

Which then led to this web page about Clara Brian as a documentary photographer:

QUOTE: When [photographer] Clara Brian began her education in 1913 home economics was very new as a national movement. It was a time in American society when, as Richard Hofstadter described it, "that broader impulse toward criticism and change that was everywhere so conspicuous after 1900... effected in a striking way...the whole tone of American political life." Americans had a feeling of evangelical optimism, the conviction that by hard work and education, through the application of scientific principles and with the spirit of sacrifice and cooperative action, people could improve and reform society, each other, themselves, for a more spiritual and idealized order.

Which then led to quotes from author Richard Hofstadter:  

Which led to this QUOTE which sounds so much like our political situation today:

“As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated–if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.”
Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays

All because I started studying Clara Brian who, for a short time in the 1930s, wrote a newspaper quilt pattern column!

I love the serendipity and synchronicity of research!!!!

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