Every person has a unique identity. Marks and expressions of identity are seen in DNA, fingerprints, social group, political party, personality, clothing, and creative activity. Even quiltmaking may identify and express one's uniqueness.
In 1867 Lucinda Ward Honstain of Brooklyn, New York, made what has become known as the Reconciliation Quilt. In it she reveals aspects of her individual and social identity in the time immediately following the Civil War. In pictorial form she illustrates her roles as wife and mother and her connections to family, community and place. The declaration of freedom by the towering ex-slave and the reunion of Confederate President Jefferson Davis with his daughter express Honstains's hopes for healing in the divided nation.
Faith Ringgold's artistic career as a painter is reflected in her painted quilt, The Women: Mask Face Quilt No. 1. The disjointed faces and torsos express how stereotypes of race and gender misrepresent personal identities. Barbara Watler's Fingerprint Series uses large-scale expansions of tiny distinctions of identity to honor those who feel a loss of identity in a technological world.
Baltimore Album quilts are a unique style of quilt made in the city between 1845-1855. Identical signatures or recurring names reveal community, religious or familial connections between those who contributed to the quilts. Similar or identical designs on a number of quilts suggest a single or small group of designers. Even after significant research the designers' identities remain a mystery.
The three quilts hanging here have obvious connections. There are six identical motifs--some made with identical fabrics - in the two Baltimore Album quilts. One of these albums shares a spectacular reverse appliqued red feather motif border with the third quilt. By why were these quilts made? Even with these shared characteristics, many of the details remain hidden by the passage of time and limited availability of writings of nineteenth-century women. Hopefully, further diligent research will reveal the common link between these quilted masterpieces.