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Fabric is an essential part of the daily lives of all people, but the tasks of purchasing and choosing textiles have historically been gendered female. Alison R. Bazylinski, the College of Human Ecology 2018 Fellow in the History of Home Economics, presents some of the insights gleaned during her research in the home economics archives housed in the Rare & Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library.
Her talk explores the cultural histories of cotton and silk from 1920 to 1945 by examining how rural female consumers and home economists understood, used, and talked about textiles. Highlighting consumer and professional home economist interactions with textiles, Bazylinski examines how cultural meanings surrounding cotton and silk – economic, aesthetic, and social – came into being and shifted in the interwar period.