Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Fellowship Year: 


Project Title: 

Textiles in the Social History of Colonial New England

As a social historian, Dr. Thatcher Ulrich was interested in bringing interdisciplinary scholarship to her work and intended to used her fellowship to focus on and learn more about object-based study. She had previously researched and published on the shift away from male weavers in the 17th century toward female cloth producers of 18th century New England, revealing that housewives took part in cooperative modes of production at every level, from planting and harvesting through to spinning and weaving. They were not independently self-sufficient at the household level, as the old stereotype claims, but different tasks were shared communally, which supported “neighbourhood female economies” and allowed households some leeway during tough times. While Dr. Thatcher Ulrich had been able to track this shift and its impact in document records, she could not discover and describe the physical aspects of the textiles they produced. More extant domestic homewoven and commercially-made textiles (both domestic and imported) from this period survived in Canada than in New England, which is why she sought out the ROM’s collection. She was interested in investigating what sorts of textile goods could be produced by household looms, how differences in thread quality would affect the final woven products, what combinations of linen and cotton were used, and what end uses were best suited to the various types of cloth produced, and how they compare to the imported textiles available to New Englanders at the time. 

About the Fellow: 

At the time of her fellowship, Dr. Thatcher Ulrich was an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. She is currently the 300th Anniversary University Professor, Emerita, at Harvard University. 

Authored by: Kait Sykes

Authored by: Kait Sykes