Category Archives: History

An Amazing Quilter

An Amazing Quilter

An Amazing Amish Quilter

I first visited Smicksburg, Pennsylvania on the last day of summer 2016. Smicksburg is a small rural town where a small arts and crafts community coexists with the Amish and other rural folks. The shops are fun to visit: pottery, antiques, dried flowers, yarn and wool, country gifts and a small Heritage museum. Other shops flourish on the periphery of Smicksburg and include an Amish furniture shop, antiques, a country restaurant, a chocolate shop (with more than just chocolate).

I wrote about that first trip (and the second trip) but I didn’t mention the Amish farm that my friend and I passed. We saw the sign by the side of the road: “Quilt repairs.”

I thought about the handmade basket pattern quilt I bought at the annual antiques show in a mall 18 to 20 years ago (Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA). Some of the material had frayed so I put it away hoping to repair it one day.

I knew it would be expensive to fix and finding someone who repairs quilts is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I tried. The closest quilt “repairer” that I had found was a five-hour drive away from Pittsburgh.

On the second rip to Smicksburg, I brought it along thinking I would get an estimate. The fabric had deteriorated even more; in fact, so had the cotton batting between the quilt top and the backing. We stopped at the quilt shop which displayed some of the most beautiful quilts I have ever seen in many different colors and patterns including crazy, log cabin, postage stamp (my favorite) and more.

She has her share of customers, too.

Effie greeted us and explained how long it would take and how much and that cotton doesn’t last. The Amish have switched to cotton blends. So I decided right there and then that I would leave the quilt for Effie to repair. That was in October. She had two other quilts ahead of mine to work on so it would take as until the Christmas holidays or even early January before she could finish it. I plucked down a deposit and wrote my name and address in her guest book.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Effie wrote to me that she had finished the quilt.  I picked it up this Saturday, December 10th (again spending the day in Smicksburg browsing and shopping).

Effie is an amazing artist;  the quilt is like new. Not only are the baskets replaced in their original colors (with fresh fabric) but the quilted background was redone like the original.  Effie’s mother told us that Effie used fabric that belonged to her grandmother to repair the baskets that had deteriorated (some of the baskets were in good condition).

We chatted with Effie and her mother for a while. I had never really communicated with the Amish before but it’s no different from speaking to anyone else.  (I once spoke to an Amish buggy driver in Lancaster.) Her mother told us that Effie was named after a beloved aunt.

Effie works by hand, without the benefit of electricity (or running water), a computer to store her patterns and database of customers, or a cell phone to text that the quilt is ready or that she’s running a special for the holidays. We communicated by letter or face-to-face.Their way of life reminds me of the seven months I spent in my father’s village in Cyprus: no running water, electricity, etc.

And the Amish are hardy. In October, Effie and her mother greeted us walking barefoot on the hard ground. Neither wore a coat yesterday and it was not a warm day.

Yesterday, I felt like I was going through a spiritual experience fixing my heirloom quilt!

A Brief History of Quilting

Quilting was first developed in Europe during the Crusades when European soldiers discovered that Turks wore several layers of fabric quilted together under their armor.

In other parts of the world, (China, North Africa, the Middle East, and northern Europe), clothing sometimes featured patchwork stitching. In ancient China, silk was so expensive that when an article of clothing wore out, the silk was cut into pieces and sewn into patchwork clothing. Today, quilting is primarily used on bedspreads, wall hangings, place mats and the like.

A quilt is composed of a top which is made of pieces of fabric cut and sewn into a pattern. Cotton (or polyester or wool) batting is layered between the quilted top and the backing. The three layers are pinned together, the quilted design marked on the top piece and quilted by hand or by machine. The outer edges of the quilt are turned under and sewn with binding.

By the time the early colonists arrived in the New World, quilting was a common way of sewing bedding and clothing. However, only the wealthy owned them. Fabrics were imported from France and England and expensive for the average colonial family.

By the early 19th century, American manufacturing cheaply produced cotton fabrics in various colors and patterns and designs evolved over time: the medallion, crazy pattern, mosaic, and Baltimore Album or Friendship design among others.

In 1972, the Whitney Museum of American art celebrated the history of American quilts with the exhibit, “Abstract Design in American Quilts.” The Bicentennial Celebrations and the growing feminist movement influenced the theme of the exhibit which featured vintage Amish quilts. The exhibit was a success with the public.

Quilts not only became popular to make and/or own, but vintage quilts became quite collectible. 

Teague, Ken. Growing Up in Ancient China.  Troll Associates, Eagle Books, 1994.

Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Annis Boudinot Stockton

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Annis Boudinot Stockton
Annis Boudinot Stockton

Annis Boudinot Stockton

Annis Boudinot Stockton was born in Darby, Pennsylvania between 1733 and  1736 to a wealthy family, descendants of French Huguenots who came to America in 1685 after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. She was the first in her family born in North America. The family later moved to the Princeton area of New Jersey where she learned to read and write unlike many women of her generation and interacted with the intellectuals of the town.

She married Richard Stockton in 1757 and they lived in Morven, the Stockton estate. As a mother of six children, she became an advocate for education after she read “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792).

Richard Stockton was a lawyer and a representative for the College of New Jersey and the American colonies. In June 1776 he sided with the patriots who elected him to the First Continental Congress. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

During the Revolutionary War, British General Cornwallis marched through New Jersey. Annis and her family left their home in Princeton and found refuge in the home of friends in Monmouth County. The British army set up headquarters at Morven, burning the Stockton library and furniture and trashing the estate but they soon found Annis and her family and imprisoned Richard.  His imprisonment left him weak and sick. Annis nursed him until his death in February 1781.

Annis B. Stockton was primarily a poet. Her poems celebrated the Battle of Bunker Hill, the fall of General Richard Montgomery at Quebec and the “deeds” of George Washington. Washington was effusive in his gratitude of her praise. She also wrote about other events during the Revolution, Congress, marriage, and friendship. She wrote her poems in a neoclassical style and compiled into a copybook.



Diamant, Lincoln, editor. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence, A One Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Greenberg, Judith E. and McKeever, Helen Cary. Journal of a Revolutionary War Woman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Micklos, John. The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2009

Freeman, Land M., North, Louise V and Wedge, Janet M. In the Words of Women: the Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799. Landam, Md: Lexington Books, 2011.

Redmond, Shirley Raye. Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution.New York: Random House, 2004



2 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 inch white paper like bond paper or drawing paper

1 sheet of 8 ½ x 11 inch construction paper any color but preferably a light color

Black felt-tip marker




  • Fold the sheets of white drawing or bond paper in half along the width.
  • Fold the construction paper in half along the width. This will be the cover of the book.
  • Open up all the folded pages. Place the cover sheet face down and draw a thin line of glue along the center fold.
  • Place one of the white sheets over the cover sheet aligning the center folds and press. Do the same for this sheet and draw a thin line of glue along its center fold.
  • Place the second sheet of drawing or bond paper on top of the first one. Align the center folds and press. Allow the glue to dry
  • Fold the papers so that the book now measures 5 ½ x 18 ½ inches. Place the cover on the outside. Cut and paste the clip art sites listed below into your browser to help you design the cover and the inside pages. Like Mercy Otis Warren and other colonial women, write in your diary every day recording the important and everyday events of your life.
  • (Optional) Free Clip Art:
VARIATION: Use the previous colonial crafts projects to enhance your country diary. Decorate the cover with a quill paper design and try writing in it with the homemade pen and ink.
Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Mary Katherine Goddard

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Mary Katherine Goddard
Mary Katherine Goddard

Mary Katherine Goddard

Mary Katherine Goddard was born in New London, Connecticut in 1783. She and her widowed mother moved to Providence Rhode Island where her brother William operated printing business. They helped him in his business but after her brother moved to Philadelphia, they wrote and edited the Providence Gazette and later West’s Almanack.

In 1768, they joined William in Philadelphia and Mary Katherine, her mother and William printed the Pennsylvania Chronicle until August 1773 when William moved to Baltimore.  Mary Katherine sold the Philadelphia business and true to form, followed him to Baltimore. She became the sole proprietor of the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser.

During the American Revolution, the Maryland Journal was one of the most circulated in the colonies. To keep the paper financially afloat, Mary Kate offered bookbinding services and sold stationery and dry goods. Later, she accepted payment in kind when subscribers could no longer afford to buy the paper.

She was one of the first to write about the Battle of Lexington and Concord realizing that it was important to get the news out quickly. Relying on eyewitness accounts, letters and the news from other towns, she printed and sold the paper on the same day she received the information.

On July 4, 1776, fifty-six men met in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence. By August of that year all the patriot leaders had signed the document but no printer had the courage to print it. It was an act of treason and King George would hang anyone guilty of treason.

In December of 1776, the British marched into Philadelphia forcing the patriot leaders to flee south to Baltimore, Maryland. They carried with them a handful of written copies of the Declaration of Independence and they needed a printer.

Mary Katherine agreed to print it and proudly printed her name at the bottom of the document. She also paid the post riders to deliver it to the rest of the colonies.

Her accomplishments didn’t stop there. In August 1775, Mary Katherine became the first woman in America to hold the office of Postmistress of Baltimore and on January 18, 1777, Congress authorized her to print the first official issue of the Declaration of Independence. She died August 12, 1816.


Additional Bibliography:

Diamant, Lincoln, editor. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence, A One Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Greenberg, Judith E. and McKeever, Helen Cary. Journal of a Revolutionary War Woman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Micklos, John. The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2009

Freeman, Land M., North, Louise V and Wedge, Janet M. In the Words of Women: the Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799. Landam, Md: Lexington Books, 2011.

Redmond, Shirley Raye. Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution, New York: Random House, 2004





Scissors or utility knife

Fine sand paper



  1. Cut the tip of the feather with scissors or a utility knife (if using the knife, ask an adult to help you). Make sure the cut is clean. If it isn’t, work the tip back and forth on the sand paper.
  2. Remove the feathers. Now make the ink.



Black, brown or blue gouache paint

Distilled water

Small glass jar

Popsicle stick

Bond paper



  1. Squeeze a small amount of paint in the bottom of the jar.
  2. Add a small amount of water and mix using the popsicle stick. Make sure the ink is the consistency of pancake batter.
  3. Dip the quill pen into the ink and begin writing! Use the quill and ink to write in your diary.



Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Judith Sargent Stevens Murray
Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

Judith Sargent Stevens Murray born into a wealthy Congregationalist home. At the age of 18, she married John Stevens, the son of a prominent Gloucester, Massachusetts family. When Judith’s father, Winthrop Sargent, read Union or A treatise of the Consanguinity of Affinity Between Christ and His Church by James Relly, he and his family began to embrace the new theology Relly proposed.

In 1774, the English Universalist preacher, John Murray, was lecturing in Boston and Judith’s father invited him to their home. John Murray and Judith met for the first time and began a correspondence discussing theology and later, the revolt of the colonies against the British. John Murray, accused of being a spy, accepted a job as army chaplain to avoid expulsion from the colonies. In the meantime, the Congregationalist church suspended Judith, her father and several other members. The following year, these Gloucester Universalists signed Articles of Association and formed the Independent Church of Christ. In 1780, John Murray became their first pastor.

Judith embraced her new religion and became a religious educator for the Universalist children of Gloucester. She and her husband adopted his two nieces and a cousin. She compiled and published the first Universalist catechism written by a woman. In it, she declared that men and women are equal, a central belief of the Universalist church.

In 1786, John Stevens escaped to the West Indies to escape creditors and died. Judith married John Murray in  1788.

Judith began writing poetry under the name “Constantia” She wrote essays on politics, manners, women’s role in society and religion for the periodicals of the day. She published under assumed names because she believed her writings would be taken seriously if the public didn’t know the writer was a woman.

Gentleman and Lady’s Town and Country Magazine published her essay, “Desultory Thoughts Upon the Utility Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms” in 1784. In 1792, she began to write a column in Massachusetts Magazine and chose the pen name Mr. Gleaner. She also began another column for the same magazine as Constantia. For Thomas Paine’s The Federal Orrery, she wrote a series of five articles for the The Reaper column.  Paine edited and rewrote some of her material and she vowed to never write another column again. The themes of her writings included Universalism and the political and social issues of the day. She also wrote plays and continued to write poetry published in the Boston Weekly Magazine writing as Honoria Martesia.

In the colonies, tutors or their mothers instructed women from wealthy families. A small minority attended the few schools in existence which were private schools for the wealthy. As early as 1784, Murray publicly urged that girls get an education.

In a 1790 essay, “On the Equality of the Sexes,” she asserted that men and women were equally capable of acquiring knowledge but differences in their education “resulted in inadequate instruction of women.” Murray felt she received an inferior education compared to her brother and learned on her own by reading. This experience taught her that women and men should have the same access to educational opportunities.

Murray’s legacy as a writer and educator continues to this day, In 1974, Alice Rossi included “On the Equality of the Sexes,” in The Feminist Papers ensuring Judith Sargent Stevens Murray’s place in women’s history.

Additional Bibliography:

Smith, Bonnie Hurd, Mingling Souls Upon Paper: An Eighteenth-century Love Story) Hurd Smith Communications, 2008.

Diamant, Lincoln, editor. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence, A One Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Greenberg, Judith E. and McKeever, Helen Cary. Journal of a Revolutionary War Woman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Micklos, John. The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2009

Freeman, Land M., North, Louise V and Wedge, Janet M. In the Words of Women: the Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799. Landam, Md: Lexington Books, 2011.

Redmond, Shirley Raye. Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution.New York: Random House, 2004



American Colonial Crafts – Quilling with paper



Strips of quilling paper 1/8 inches to ½ inches in width


Clear glue

Pencil or Q-tip

Colored paper or card stock

Light-weight paper in various colors (optional)

Ruler (optional)



  1. Purchase quilling paper which comes in a variety of colors. Or using a ruler, measure and mark anywhere 1/8” to ½” at intervals along the length of the lightweight paper. Draw a long line along the marks. Cut and repeat the steps until you have enough strips for a design.
  2. Roll the end of the paper on to the end of a pencil or Q-tip. When you reach the end, loosen a little of the coil so you can easily roll it off the pencil. Add a little glue and finish rolling the coil to keep it from loosening.
  3. Roll the coils tightly and/or loosely depending on your design. Look at the sample above.
  4. Arrange the coils on the colored paper or card stock creating a design: flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, abstract designs. Quilled paper designs can also be framed (without glass) and hung in any room or classroom.
Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Patience Lovel Wright

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Patience Lovel Wright
Patience Lovel Wright

Patience Lovel Wright

Patience Lovel Wright was a successful painter, poet and sculptor. She was born on Long Island, NY in 1725. When she was four her family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey. She married an elderly Quaker farmer, Joseph Wright and bore him five children. After Joseph died, she supported her family working as a sculptor and moved to London to work on the bust of Benjamin Franklin. She became famous for her wax portrait busts of King George III, Queen Charlotte, the historian Catherine Macaulay, and other prominent people. She also created sculptures of Patriot sympathizers hiding the fact from her benefactor, King George.

Circulating among French and British high society, she was able to gather valuable information about British preparations for the war against the colonies. She didn’t hesitate to send that information to the American rebels often detailing it in her correspondence or hiding it inside her wax sculptures. After visiting John Adams in London, she fell and died a few days later.

Today the only existing example of her wax sculptures is the bust of William Pitt which stands in Westminster Abbey. Another miniature wax bust of an unidentifiable woman is in the Bordentown Historical Society’s collection.

Additional Bibliography:


Corn Husk Doll



Corn husks from one corn on the cob (summer is a great time to get corn husks for the price of corn on the cob or ask the grocer to set some aside for you). To make two dolls you will need the husks from two corns on the cob. Discard the corn silk.

Bowl of warm water


Black felt-tip marker

String or garbage bag ties

Scraps of fabric and/or paper


Embellishments like sequins, etc.



  1. Dry the corn husks (the outer leaves of the corn) overnight.
  2. Soak the corn husks in the bowl of warm water until they are soft to handle.
  3. Fold the corn husks from one corn on the cob in half and tie string near the fold. This will be the head of the doll.
  4. The husks are easy to split vertically. Shape the rest of the husks into legs by tying them at the bottom with string or garbage bag ties.
  5. Cut clothes out of the scraps of fabric or colorful paper. Add sequins and other embellishments to decorate the clothing.
  6. Use marker to make eyes, a nose and a mouth on the doll. 
Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Mercy Otis Warren

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren was born in 1728 in Barnstable, Massachusetts into a wealthy family. She was home-schooled especially in the domestic arts but listened in on her brothers’ academic lessons. She absorbed a lot because her brother, James, encouraged her to pursue her interest in history and writing..

In 1764, she married James Warren, a merchant, farmer and a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Through her husband she came to know the leaders of the American Revolution and he, too, encouraged her to pursue her literary interests.

Mercy frequently wrote letters to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson about issues involving the colonies and the Warren’s home eventually became a hub for  revolutionaries and intellectuals. Boston revolutionaries formed the Committees of Correspondence after a series of protest meetings were held in Mercy’s parlor. She also corresponded with her friend, Abigail Adams, whose husband became the second President of the United Sates. Later their friendship cooled when Mercy was critical of John Adams in her three-volume history of the United States.

She used the pseudonym Fidelia for the poems and dramas she wrote many of which were anti-British. In Model Celebration, mermaids and other sea creatures enjoy sipping British rea during the Boston Tea Party of 1773. In Blockheads, Mercy made fun of the British King George. Other plays included the Adulateur (1772), The Defeat and The Group (1775). In 1790, she published yet another volume of poems and plays.

The British did not know who wrote these works otherwise they would have arrested and hanged Mercy for treason. Warren was also noted for the three-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution published in 1805, the first narrative of the conflict between America and Britain.

In addition to her writing pursuits and political interests, Mercy ran a farm in her husband’s absence and raised five sons.


Diamant, Lincoln, editor. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence, A One Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Greenberg, Judith E. and McKeever, Helen Cary. Journal of a Revolutionary War Woman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Micklos, John. The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2009

Freeman, Land M., North, Louise V and Wedge, Janet M. In the Words of Women: the Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799. Landam, Md: Lexington Books, 2011.

Redmond, Shirley Raye. Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution.



Ripe orange, or lemon or lime

Jar o whole cloves


Dish of powdered cinnamon (optional)







  1. With a toothpick, poke holes in the skin of the fruit keeping them close together.
    (Sometimes this step isn’t necessary. Try it without the toothpick first.)
  2. Push a clove into each hole covering the entire fruit with cloves. Place the cloves as tightly or as far apart as you choose but cover the entire fruit with cloves.
  3. Optional: Roll the fruit in the cinnamon. Cover with cloves. Place it in a pretty dish and place the dish in a cool dark place for two to three weeks so that the fruit dries out.
  4. Optional: Place the fruit in a square of netting. Gather up the ends of the netting and tie a ribbon around it. Leave enough extra ribbon to make a loop. Or, skip the netting and simply tie ribbon around the pomander ball.
  5. Hang the pomander ball or place it on a pretty dish. It will scent the entire room.


Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Phillis Wheatley

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley

Born and kidnapped in Senegal, Phillis Wheatley arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1761.John and Susanna Wheatley, a Quaker couple, bought her to work as a domestic and named her Phillis. Instead, they raised Phillis like their own daughter. Phillis didn’t know English when she came into their household but Susanna tutored her. Phillis mastered the English language and was able to read the Bible at a young age, compelling the Wheatleys to hire teachers. Her tutors encouraged her to continue her English studies and study theology and the Greek and Latin classics.

When she was eleven, she began to correspond with a Mohegan Indian, the Reverend Samson Occum, agreeing with his criticism of slave-holding Christian ministers and other related issues.

Phillis was the first African-American to publish a book of poems, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1767. Her writing was so powerful that Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and the Reverend Samuel Cooper questioned the poems were really written by her.

Phillis’ poems condemned slavery and celebrated freedom and liberty. She wrote a poem entitled To His Excellency General Washington in which she praised him and urged to carry on the fight for America’s freedom. The poem impressed George Washington and he invited Phillis to have tea with him at his army camp.

After the publication of her book of poems, Thomas Wheatley took her on a trip to England where the public treated her like a literary celebrity. In France, Voltaire praised her “very good English verse.”

In 1773, John and Susanna Wheatley gave Phillis her freedom.  After the Wheatleys died, Phillis  married John Peters in 1778, a free black Bostonian. They had three children two of whom died in childbirth. Peters later abandoned her. Impoverished, she and her third child died of complications following childbirth. her final manuscript has never been found.


Diamant, Lincoln, editor. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence, A One Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Greenberg, Judith E. and McKeever, Helen Cary. Journal of a Revolutionary War Woman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Micklos, John. The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2009

Freeman, Land M., North, Louise V and Wedge, Janet M. In the Words of Women: the Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799. Landam, Md: Lexington Books, 2011.

Redmond, Shirley Raye. Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution.

New York: Random House, 2004


Do the craft below!

Red, White and Blue Banner

Fourth of July Banner

Fourth of July Banner


Ages: 5 – 12 years                            Time: ½ hour


White felt 36” x 36”                          Red Fun Foam

Blue Fun Foam                                  white Fun Foam

sharp tool like an awl                        ¼” red, white and blue ribbon

Measure and cut white felt to 14” x 20”. Place felt horizontally. Fold a 1” seam at the top of the felt and iron. Fold a second 1” seam and iron again. Glue the second seam with tacky glue. You will pass the dowel rod through this loop. This piece of felt should now measure 14” x 16”.

Trace the large star pattern and cut one large star out of the white Fun Foam. Cut 13 smaller stars out of the white Fun Foam using the smaller star pattern.

Trace and cut a large circle out of the blue Fun Foam. Glue the large star in the center. Arrange the smaller stars around the circle. Make sure that they all face the same way. Lay aside. Measure and cut 7 stripes ¾” x 16” out of the red Fun Foam.

Arrange the stripes on the banner so that there is a ¾” stripe of white felt showing between them. (Refer to the diagram provided.) Glue the stripes down and trim if necessary.

Glue the blue circle with the stars in the center of the red and white stripes.

At the bottom of the banner, poke holes every 1” with a sharp tool like an awl.  (Small children should let adults do this for them.) Insert the ribbon in the holes, alternating the colors. Pull the ribbon through and tie a knot in the back.

Trim the dowel rod to 18 x 20”. Cut a piece of string to a length suitable for hanging. Tie the string to each end of the dowel rod.

Remember Phillis Wheatley and her love of liberty!





Share Button

Marie Curie, Reluctant Feminist?

Marie Curie, Reluctant Feminist?
Marie Curie

Marie Curie in her lab

When the World’s Fair opened in 1899, the Eiffel Tower stood at its entrance announcing peace and prosperity for France. This was the Belle Époque Era when the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, literature, and filmmaking prospered.

Marya Sklodowska arrived from Poland during this period of creativity and scientific and technological innovation.

She was born in Warsaw in 1867 during the Russian occupation of Poland. She was the youngest in a family that included four sisters and one brother. Her parents were Polish patriots and teachers who encouraged their children’s academic studies. When Marya was 11, her oldest sister of died of typhus and a shortly after, her mother died of tuberculosis.

Marya became depressed after her mother’s death but managed to attend the Floating University, a secret school unknown to the Russian government. The Floating University allowed women to study unlike many European universities like Warsaw University. When she was 17, Marya left home to work as a governess, supporting her sister financially through medical school. But after a failed romance with the oldest son of the household, she left Poland for Paris.

Marya was one of 23 female students in a student body of 1800 studying at the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne. She lived during a time in history when few women attended high school let alone college. Marya lived in a garret that was very cold in the winter and studied so hard that she sometimes fainted because she forgot or couldn’t afford to eat.

In spite of the fact that she was poor, she grew to love Paris and all it had to offer. She changed her name to Marie.

She met Pierre Curie when she asked for space in his laboratory so she could study the magnetic properties of steel. They fell in love and married, forming a scientific partnership.

Marie continued her research influenced by Henri Becquerel who developed the x-ray and Wilhelm Roentgen who discovered that the x-ray could travel through the human body and be used to take pictures of human bones. Marie used their ideas as the basis of her doctorate.

Marie Curie  achieved many “firsts” in fields dominated by men. For starters, she became the first woman in France to earn a doctorate. (Later, she became the first woman whose daughter also became a Nobel Prize recipient.)

France became her adopted country but many Frenchmen disliked foreigners and Marie Curie was often the object of their hatred. Many fellow scientists resented the fact that Marie was a prominent scientist and she often had to defend herself against their attacks. Hers was like the life of the modern woman we know today yet Marie Curie didn’t see herself as a role model for other women. She was not a suffragette or a pioneer for women’s rights although she once signed a petition protesting the arrest of certain leaders of the movement.

Perhaps she was not consciously a feminist but much of what she accomplished indicated otherwise. She never sought to “succeed in a male-dominated arena” according to her granddaughter. Rather “she simply loved science above everything else.” (Emling, pp. xi, Marie Curie and Her Daughters)

Although her research consumed her time and despite poor health, Marie gave birth to two daughters, Eve and Irene. She juggled motherhood and her career. “I have been frequently questioned especially by women, how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy,” she once said. (Redneiss, pp. 76, Radioactive)

In 1903, she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics which she shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel. She was not invited to speak at the acceptance ceremony because she was a woman.

Science was her passion. Marie discovered that radiation came from the interior of an atom. She called her discovery radioactivity. Radioactivity occurs when some types of matter give off rays of energy. She also discovered two new elements, polonium (named after the country of her birth) and radium.

One Thursday in 1906, Pierre Curie, limping in pain, was hit by a carriage while crossing the Pont Neuf and died. Years later, there was speculation that the limp was result of exposure to radiation.

After his death, the Sorbonne asked Marie to assume Pierre’s place as professor. She became the first woman to teach there, a position she accepted because she needed a paycheck to raise her daughters. Marie continued Pierre’s research on radiation and gravity and radiation’s effects on various substances. She also established a lab in honor of Pierre’s memory at the university.

Four years after Pierre’s death, she began an affair with Paul Langevin, a family friend and former student of Pierre’s. Unhappily married, Langevin’s wife made the affair public on Nov.4, 1910, while Marie and Langevin attended the International Solway Conference in Belgium. Three days after the conference, the Nobel committee announced that she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering new elements and separating a sample of radium. She was the first woman to win a second Nobel Prize in a second field.

The  press in France scorned and criticized Marie once the affair with Langevin became public knowledge. They more interested in her private life than in her accomplishments. The French were not alone in their hostility. Before the acceptance ceremony, several Nobel committee members asked Marie to avoid attending the ceremony and embarrassing the Royal family of Sweden and the Nobel Committee.

On Dec. 5th, Marie wrote to the Nobel committee: “The steps that you advise seem to me a grave error…There is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of a private life.” (Pp.134. Redniss) Marie accepted in person anyway. The affair with Langevin was over by then.

Many believed that the press and others criticized Marie because she was a woman. Her friend Marguerite Borel noted that “none of this would have happened if Marie were a man.” (Pp.9 Emiling, Marie Curie and her Daughters.)

When Marie returned to Paris from Sweden, she entered the Family of Saint Marie convent where doctors operated to remove lesions from her kidneys. She lost weight and wrote her will. Lingering rumors and the need to recuperate, compelled her to leave Paris for the countryside and later, the south of England.

World War I broke out in 1914. She returned to France and established military field radiological (x-ray) centers for wounded French soldiers. She converted her savings into war bonds and managed to take her radium supply to Bordeaux where the French government had established itself in exile.

After the war, she worked for the Radium Institute studying the uses of radioactivity in medicine. Pierre Curie had guessed that radium could be used to treat cancer but after his death, scientists found out that too much radioactivity could cause cancer, too.

On a visit to America, the reluctant feminist became aware of her influence when she met young women who aspired to study math and science. She also achieved her goal for coming to the United States: she was given a gram of radium bought by donations from Americans from all walks of life. She also raised funds to set up research and treatment centers at the Radium Institutes of Paris and Warsaw. In 1922, she was the first woman elected to the Academy of Medicine.

For most of her life, her love of science made her oblivious to the effects of radiation on her health. Doctors and others began to realize that radiation could do bad as well as good to the human body but Marie Curie refused to accept the facts. She never stopped working until the end when she felt so ill that she finally agreed to enter a clinic.

Marie Curie died there on July 4, 1934 of “aplastic pernicious anemia.”

ADDITIONAL FACTS: Pierre and Marie Curie were laid in the Pantheon in Paris. The Pantheon is a mausoleum which also houses the remains of Voltaire, Zola, Rousseau, Hugo and Langevin. Marie is the only woman interred in the Pantheon based on her own merits. The Bibliotheque Nationale continues to store the Curie’s laboratory notebooks where they are still radioactive 100 years later. Stamps and coins the world over feature their profiles and countless schools, streets, subway stops and even holidays bear the Curie name. There is even a Marie Curie crater on Mars and the Asteroid 7000 Curie orbits inside the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MARIE CURIE: Emiling, Shelley. Marie Curie and Her Daughters. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Lin, Yoming S. The Curies and Radioactivity. NY: PowerKids Press, 2012 Meltzer, Brad. Heroes for My Daughter. NY: Forty-Four Steps, 2012 Redniss, Lauren. Radioactive. NY: It Books, 2012 ART PROJECT:


Paper Cut-out: Heart

Wycinanki or Paper Cut-out: Heart

Wycinanki is a craft popular in Poland. The complex designs, cut out of thin paper, included plants, animals and people. When completed, the cut-outs looked like delicate lace. Traditionally, women and children made the paper cut-outs in the spring when the walls of homes were freshly white-washed. They would then glue the wycinanki high on the wall where it met the ceiling.

Pattern: Heart for Paper Cut-out

Wycinanki are still popular today and made for the tourist trade and collectors.

Materials: Pattern for the heart cut-out

Colored paper – light-weight is best

Soft pencil like a No. 2 or an HB pencil

Paper clips

Embroidery scissors

Masking tape

Tracing paper

Spray adhesive or glue stick

  1. Anchor the pattern on a flat surface with masking tape.
  2. Place tracing paper over the pattern; tape the corners of the paper down and trace the design carefully.
  3. Measure the design. Double the size. Measure and cut the colored paper to that size and fold the paper in half.
  4. Flip the tracing paper and blacken the back of it with the pencil. Wash your hands of pencil smears.
  5. Flip the tracing paper again so that the original tracing is on top. Place it on the colored paper. Align the fold of the colored paper and the left side of the design. (See diagram above.) Tape all four sides of the tracing and colored paper on the board. Or clip everything together with paper clips. Maintain margins of about ½” on the other three sides.
  6. Trace again and press hard so that the lines of the design show on the colored paper.
  7. Remove tracing paper. Clip or tape the sides of the folded paper and cut. Look at the design carefully when cutting.
  8. Carefully unfold the wycinanki and press it as flat as possible. Using spray adhesive or glue sticks, mount the cut out on a piece of contrasting colored paper. Frame it and hang it in your room.

Below is a Wycinanki for advanced cut-out artists with pattern:

Traditional Wycinanki

Traditional Wycinanki – for advanced paper cut-out artists

Paper Cut-out Pattern

Wycinanki Pattern


Share Button

The Early Life of Alexander the Great

The Early Life of Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, in the city-state of Macedonia on July 20, 356 BC and died under mysterious circumstances in 323 BC in Babylon.

Alexander was the product of a dysfunctional family. His father was King Phillip of Macedonia. His mother was Olympias, daughter of the King of Epirus, a city-state in northern Greece. She was a beautiful eccentric woman who did odd things like worship snakes. She also sought power in her own right and was willing to use her son to get it. Olympias would tell Alexander that the great warrior Achilles who died fighting in the Trojan War was his ancestor and Alexander believed her.

His parents’ conflicts with each other placed a strain on Alexander and taxed his loyalties. Alexander was a mama’s boy yet he was also influenced by his father who was a brilliant warrior, scholar and statesman.

Alexander showed his genius at a very early age so Phillip hired the best teachers to tutor him. Leonidas, a relative of Olympias’, taught Alexander, who was a natural athlete, physical endurance. Lysimachus taught him reading and writing. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught Alexander a love for the Greek playwrights, law, medicine, natural and physical science, philosophy, and more importantly, how to think critically.

When Alexander was ten, Phillip took him to see war horses offered for sale. One particular horse was very wild and his owner wanted a lot of money for him. Phillip was furious that anyone would think he would want to buy such a horse but Alexander was confident that he could tame it.

Alexander noticed that the animal was afraid of his own shadow. He took the bridle and turned the horse to face the sun. He stroked it to calm its fears, mounted it and rode the horse down the length of the field. Phillip and the owner looked on nervously until Alexander and the horse returned.

“My boy,” Phillip said, “you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you.” Alexander named the horse Bucephalus (“Ox head”) and Alexander rode him through most of his military campaigns. Bucephalus became one of Alexander’s best friends.

When Alexander was sixteen, Phillip appointed him as regent in his absence. During this time, Phillip and the Macedonian army fought one Greek city-state after the other. When Phillip’s attempts to defeat the rebellious cities in southern Thrace were not doing well, he summoned Alexander who successfully beat them. Phillip’s confidence in his son’s abilities grew so much that he sent Alexander back to Macedonia to continue to rule as regent.

But Alexander never stopped aiding his father in his campaign to conquer Greece. Phillip, emboldened by his victories, marched south toward his last opponent, Athens. Phillip extended an offer of peace to the city. The city rejected the offer. The two armies squared off. Although their armies were equal in strength, the Greeks had no important generals. Macedonia had Phillip and Alexander. Phillip divided his army into three sections with Alexander on his left and the Macedonian army on his right; in the center were his allies. The formation worked and Alexander and Phillip marched into Athens victorious.

Thus in 338 BC, Phillip achieved his dream of conquering Greece with the help of his eighteen-year-old son. But Phillip’s victory celebration wouldn’t last long. Shortly after his conquest of Greece, he married a Macedonian noble woman named Cleopatra. (Phillip had many wives in addition to Olympias.) This caused a rift in Alexander’s relationship with Phillip. When Cleopatra gave birth to a son, Caranus, Alexander felt even more isolated from his father.

Phillip’s next goal was to conquer Persia. He sent his generals ahead to plan this next invasion while he celebrated the wedding of Alexander’s sister. But on the second day of the wedding festivities, a Macedonian nobleman, Pausanias, murdered Phillip. Alexander inherited the throne as his father’s rightful heir but he first eliminated anyone who posed a threat to him including Caranus.

These events molded Alexander’s later life and character. They lay the ground work for his later leadership of Greece and his conquest of the known world. His greatest battles lay ahead.  

To read more about Alexander:

Doherty, Paul. The Death of Alexander the Great. Carroll and Graf Publishers, NY, 2004.

Hammond, N. G. L. The Genius of Alexander the Great. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1997.

Lamb, Harold. Alexander of Macedon, The Journey to the World’s End. Doubleday and Company, Garden City, NY, 1946.

Macdonald, Fiona. The World in the time of Alexander the Great. Chelsea House Publishers, London, 2001. ,

Tsouras, Pete G. Alexander, Invincible King of Macedonia. Brassey’s, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2004



Alexander the Great of Macedonia and Greece

Alexander the Great of Macedonia and Greece









One of the few known images of Alexander the Great is his profile on a gold coin. Other images include statues, busts and mosaics. Do you think those images are correct? What do you think he really looked like? Use a search engine to see the existing images of him and draw a portrait of him.

For more help in drawing faces, here are links with tutorials on drawing faces:

Share Button

The Life and Death of Joan of Arc

The Life and Death of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc grew up during a difficult time in French history. The Hundred Year’s War with England, which began in 1337 as a dispute over the French throne, destroyed the country’s economy. England occupied much of France and the part it didn’t occupy was frequently at war.

Joan was born in Domremy, France in 1412. She was one of five children. Her parents, Jacques D’Arc and Isabelle Romee, were peasants who owned a 50-acre farm. Her father was also a minor official who collected taxes and headed the local watch.

Life for Joan followed the same pattern as that of her parents and grandparents. The center of that life revolved around hard work, family and the Roman Catholic church.  Society expected young women to marry but Joan had resisted her parents’ attempts to arrange a marriage for her when she was sixteen.

Joan was about twelve-years old when she started to hear voices. These voices instructed her to defeat the English army and crown Charles VII king. After the death of his father and four brothers, Charles, known as the Dauphin, became the uncrowned king of France. By this time Joan was sixteen. French tradition dictated that the King of France be crowned at the Cathedral of Reims but the English occupied Reims. Charles and his court, instead, lived in Chinon, located 226 miles away.

Joan asked her cousin, Durand Lassois, to escort her to nearby Vaucouleurs so she could ask the garrison commander, Count Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to visit the French court at Chinon. Single young women like Joan were not allowed to travel alone. The count said no. The next January, she had a second interview with Baudricourt where she made a remarkable prediction about a military victory in Orléans.

When news from the front confirmed her prediction, Baudricourt provided her with an escort to visit Chinon. She traveled through hostile territory in male disguise. When she arrived at the royal court she impressed Charles VII during a private meeting revealing something to him that no one else could know.

Charles granted Joan permission to travel with the army and wear the armor and carry the equipment that knights carried.

Her habits as a soldier were eccentric. Once she became a French soldier, Joan no longer wore dresses. She decided she was too young to marry and would stay a virgin, calling herself The Maid or Jehanne la Pucelle. On the battlefield, Joan ate very little food and her periods stopped.

Joan didn’t care that no one understood her because she had a single vision: to crown the Dauphin king of France.

Joan led the army at Orléans riding a white horse and carrying her personal banner decorated with the fleur-de-lis*. Joan never used her sword which she found at the shrine of St. Catherine, and didn’t wear a helmet. She hated killing and instead preferred to encourage the soldiers to fight hard.

The English army surrounded Orléans. The only way into the city was across the Loire River and through a gate in the wall of the fortress. Joan sustained a wound in Orléans but she stayed on the battle field. This act inspired the French army and after an all-out attack, Orléans was finally in French hands.

Joan tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Dauphin to go to Reims for his coronation as King of France. Hoping to influence him, Joan fought a series of battles around Reims which she won and he was finally persuaded. Charles wore gold robes to his coronation at the beautiful Cathedral as the crowds outside cheered. Joan stood next to him wearing her armor and carrying her banner.

But Joan’s work was not finished.

Joan asked the king permission to capture Paris next but King Charles preferred to negotiate a compromise with the English. Disheartened, Joan stopped listening to her voices. She lost one battle after the other even breaking the sword of St. Catherine.

The King again declared that he wanted to make a truce with England and disbanded the army. According to her voices, Joan only had a year to save France.

In the spring of 1430, Joan defiantly moved the fighting north. Joan marched on to Compeigne but the battle there did not go well. Her soldiers fled and enemy soldiers captured Joan.

The French people begged the King to pay for her ransom but Charles refused.

Her English captors charged Joan with the crimes of witchcraft and heresy, punishable by burning at the stake. The English moved Joan to a prison in Rouen, the center of English power in France. They shackled her and guarded her day and night.

Joan’s trial was held at the Great Justice Hall at Rouen. One of the 200 judges facing her questioned why she wore men’s clothing. Joan responded that it was for her safety, and that it was better if the soldiers didn’t think of her as a woman.

“Besides,” she added, “my voices commanded it.”

Another judge asked why saints would speak to an illiterate peasant girl. These voices must surely come from the devil. Joan insisted that they were heavenly because they brought her comfort and courage. The judges were furious at her stubbornness and threatened her with torture and death.

Joan eventually broke down under the pressure and confessed that her voices were from the devil. She expected her captors to free her if she signed the confession but was disheartened when she found out that her punishment would be life imprisonment. The soldiers shaved off her hair and forced her to wear a dress.

Her voices told her how wrong she had been to confess a lie. So Joan tore off her dress and put on the boys’ clothes that had been left in her cell. This action guaranteed that Joan would be burned at the stake. The head judge visited her in prison when he learned about what she had done. Joan admitted that she had signed the confession out of fear and that her voices really had been from God.

On May 30, 1431, ten thousand people watched in silence as the soldiers tied Joan to the stake. A kind English soldier gave her a crude cross made of two sticks which Joan stuck inside her dress. Then the fire was lit, quickly engulfing her. Joan called out, “Jesus! Jesus!” Nineteen-year-old Joan of Arc was dead within minutes.

After Joan’s death, the English began to lose ground on the battlefield and eventually, lost all their French possessions. Later, a guilt-ridden Charles sent for a copy of Joan’s trial. When he saw how one-sided it had been, he ordered a re-trial. The church cleared Joan of witchcraft and heresy.

In 1920, the Pope decreed Joan of Arc a saint of the Catholic Church.

* The fleur-de-lis or “flower of the lily” is a symbol used in heraldry.

* Don’t forget to do the art project below!

To learn more about Joan of Arc:

___________ Medieval World, Vol. 5 House and Home, Joan of Arc. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 2000

Bull, Angela, Joan of Arc. NY: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc. 2000.

Fraioli, Deborah. A. Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005.

Spoto, Donald. Joan: the Mysterious Life of the Heretic who became a Saint. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007

Tompert, Ann. Joan of Arc: Heroine of France. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2003.




Fleur de lis

“I loved my banner forty times better than my sword.” Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc’s banner depicted a fleur-de-lis pattern. The standard was made of white boucassin which is a material similar to bucrum, and fringed in silk. The words “Jesus Maria” were written on it. Banners come in three shapes: banner, standard and pennon. Joan of Arc’s banner was a standard banner. Refer to the photographs below.

Banner with fleur de lis design

Banner with fleur de lis design


Paper such as sketch paper, bond paper, watercolor paper (any size)


Water/container for water/soft bristle brushes

Colored pencils



Dowel rod


1) Joan of Arc’s banner symbolized the fight of the French people for their country’s independence from British rule. Make your own banner design for your team, school, scout troop or club.

2) Utilize designs that symbolize your team, troop, etc. Go to  a search engine like Google or Yahoo and research banner shapes. Decide if the banner will be a pennon, banner or standard and draw an outline first.

3) Draw the designs on the banner and color it  using any combination of materials.


For more information on fleur-de-lis designs:


Share Button