Hand Quilt Along: Freedom for Women


Lots of people are writing about their moms today, since it’s Mother’s Day in the US and some other spots.

I have a totally wonderful mom about whom I’ve written in the past but today I’ll focus on another woman with whom I share a last name and many of the same values and beliefs.

I would love to claim Margaret Sanger as a blood relative but my cousin, who knows these things, says we aren’t related.

I guess I’ll have to settle for simply admiring her and the advances she fought for for women.

Sanger saw her Irish immigrant mother worn out and made ill by 18 pregnancies and later, as a nurse, saw the outcomes of desperate back-alley and self-inflicted abortions.

An advocate of and activist for women’s rights, Sanger is said to have coined the term “birth control” and established the precursor of Planned Parenthood. She wanted women to have a kind of freedom that even the right to vote couldn’t give them—the freedom of their bodies. The freedom to choose whether and when to become mothers.

I felt she needed to be represented in this quilt and especially love this quote:


So, when people hear my name and ask if I’m related to Margaret Sanger . . . I just say yes. 

Since our most recent check-in, I finished this quotation block and the the block I was working on last time.

That means I have completed 11 of 20 blocks and am officially over halfway done! Well, half finished the 20 blocks anyway–there’s other work to be done on this!

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Susan,  Nanette, Sassy , Edith, Sharon and Bella.

64 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: Freedom for Women

    • Thanks, Liz–The USA is in such a crazy place these days, I worry. We need to remember what these women did to advance women’s rights, and be sure we don’t backslide.

  1. What a terrific reminder of a hugely important person and her life’s work. I can only begin to imagine what sorts of experiences (intense, bloody, desperate, heart-breaking, enraging?) are contained in this simple sentence: “Sanger saw her Irish immigrant mother worn out and made ill by 18 pregnancies and later, as a nurse, saw the outcomes of desperate back-alley and self-inflicted abortions.” Thank you for honoring Margret Sanger with this quilt square and with this blog post!

    • I think Sanger’s life was pretty dramatic and she was quite the rebel. And apparently her husbands completely supported her in her causes, even the one from whom she divorced, after they split up!

  2. Oh Kerry, your quilting is always inspiring, and now half done with the blocks too, you must be excited. Do you already have plans for the border in your head? Your tribute to Margaret Sanger is perfect for this quilt’s theme.

  3. Wonderful! Perhaps you can claim her as an honorary relative? Eighteen pregnancies? What a thought! In my books, Sanger is an American heroine.

  4. Your stitches are exquisite. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Sanger than your beautiful, even, measured, and loving quilt. I didn’t know she coined the term “birth control”. I can’t imagine what 18 children would do to your mind, body and spirit. I’m grateful for the women that came before us that have allowed us the freedom’s we enjoy. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    • She actually only (only?!) had 11 children who lived but what would 11 children plus 7 miscarriages do to a person?? I’m grateful, too, for what these women endured and am horrified at the prospect that we may be moving backwards . . .

      • The recent talk of reinstating the abortion clinic gag order this week is yet another example of how quickly things can devolve. It makes me heart sick and furious. And we know that it’s poor women who will suffer the most. 45 could care less. It’s all about his base.

    • Oh, there’s still a long way to go, as you know from your own project! But I do believe I am making more regular progress than I would be, if we weren’t involved in the HQAL.

    • She is definitely worry claiming! Scarily, there are many Americans who would be happy to undo her work and go back to the days of back alley abortions . . .

  5. I have not heard of your relative before, and I am happy to meet her. We are all related, so of course she is yours. And of course, as women, we are all sisters!! Halfway through the blocks is amazing, is this enough impetus to carry you through the next nine? I’m coming to the end of the last batch of Persian tiles in my big crochet project and was reflecting on the fact that I’m glad it was only twenty big tiles that had to be made – another five and my enthusiasm might wane…..

    • My enthusiasm ebbs and flows with this quilt. I know I wouldn’t be making such good progress without the outside pressure of the HQAL. It’s funny–I have to sort of force myself to sit down to it but then, once I do, I’m quite happy and wonder what took me so long!

  6. What a perfect post for Mother’s Day! I so agree and don’t understand any woman who does not. Your stitching of that block is perfection. I’m glad to hear you have reached more than half way. That’s quite the project. Margaret Sanger had it absolutely right.

  7. I’m happy that you are keeping Sanger’s work fresh in our minds. It’s so easy to forget what life was like for women before birth control. So many people don’t seem to realize that all of strides that women have made in the workplace, in politics, and in our culture in general arise from a woman’s ability to “own and control her own body.” Without it, we cannot come close to being on an equal playing field with men. Unfortunately, we must be vigilant to ensure that we don’t slip backward into those dark days again. Sorry for the soapbox, but I get very frustrated when I see what is happening these days and wan’t to shake people to wake up!

    • I quite applaud your soapbox and you make the argument so well! I do think we are in danger of slipping backwards and I wonder if some, especially young women, really understand what that would mean to them. We take our freedom for granted . . .

  8. You are spiritually related for sure. I didn’t know Margaret’s story but it is a great one, although it would seem from all the anti Sanger videos on the internet that many still can’t forgive her for Planned Parenthood and giving women control over their bodies. Sigh!

  9. A powerful post about a remarkable woman. I’m getting more and more enthused with every post you make on this quilt, Kerry; the craftsmanship, the quotes, the women they represent. It’s going to be a truly wonderful tour de force. And you’re over half way there!

    • Thank you, Sandra! I alternate between being excited about the quilt and sort of tired of it. But, when I’m actually stitching on one of the quote blocks, and thinking about the message–that’s when I get excited again!

  10. I live in Iowa, where we’ve gone farther backwards in the last couple of years than I could have every imagined. Women here are no longer legally independent, having lost control over their own bodies. I am furious and feel helpless at the same time. Thanks for honoring those, especially Sanger, who fought for our agency.

  11. I hadn’t heard of Sanger but now that I do know about her and her work she has been awarded a place of honour in my personal heroine list.
    Your quilt and your beautiful stitching fill me with deep admiration, Kerry.

    • Thanks so much, Clare! Sanger’s work deserves wider recognition, I think. And women’s reproductive rights are under serious threat here in the US right now–Sanger must be spinning in her grave.

  12. We are in Lancaster, PA for a visit… of quilt shops, etc. I’m enjoying all the color. Our party of me and 4 ladies joked that I was quite the patient man to spend a weekend in quilt, craft, and antique shops. I quipped back that I would have a much more enjoyable time here than watching golf with 4 guys (that would be torture to me). – Oscar

  13. Cool story about your extended (maybe infinitely so) relation 🙂 She done good stuff and I only wish there wasn’t so much fighting about those kinds of things. Good for you for putting it out there in such a meaningful way.

  14. It’s shocking the way women were treated in the past – actually until quite recently – and perhaps even more shocking the way some men, and some organisations, still have double-standards about this. I wasn’t aware of Sanger before, but she sounds amazing – and worth an association!

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