International Quilt Museum announces ‘A New Deal for Quilts’ book release

International Quilt Museum announces ‘A New Deal for Quilts’ book release

November 3, 2023
Alongside the opening of its latest exhibition “A New Deal for Quilts,” the International Quilt Museum (IQM) has published a companion book authored by professor and historian Dr. Janneken Smucker.

The book explores how the U.S. government of the 1930s utilized quilts and quiltmaking in response to the unemployment, financial turmoil, and displacement that occurred during the Great Depression.
Government programs, often under the umbrella of the “New Deal,” used the symbolic heft of quilts to communicate values and behaviors that benefited individuals and communities during the Depression.

While quiltmaking represented the thrifty values of the 1930s, it also provided impoverished women working in federally sponsored sewing rooms with new vocational skills and a supportive social outlet. Quilts were also feel-good objects that bolstered people’s morale and provided comforts of home to Americans in precarious living situations during these trying

Smucker, who also guest curated the exhibition at the IQM, was inspired by 1930s-era government-sponsored photos intended to demonstrate the successes of the New Deal. Beautifully illustrated and diligently researched, the book utilizes period photographs and images of quilts to evoke the visual environment of the Depression while exploring the
ways craft, work, race, poverty, and politics intersected during this pivotal era.
Smucker is a Professor of History at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She hosts and co-produces “Running Stitch - A QSOS Podcast,” in partnership with the national non-profit Quilt Alliance, drawing on oral histories with contemporary quiltmakers.
Copies of “A New Deal for Quilts” are now available in the IQM Museum Store. Pre-order copies are available online through the University of Nebraska Press.

For more information on the book and research project, visit
The International Quilt Museum is home to the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection, with objects from over 65 countries dating as far back as the 1600s. Founded in 1997, the museum was anchored at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by a donation of nearly 1,000 quilts from Ardis and Robert James.

To learn more about the museum and the exhibitions now showing, visit