Quilts Bring to Life Memories of Women’s Work in China

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Dec. 18, 2009
A detailed close up of one of the quilts that is being loaned to the church’s Global Mission Partnerships program by Marjorie Morse Kauffman of Lancaster, Pa. The quilt top was appliqued by Chinese women in the 1930s, as part of a program of the former Church of the Brethren mission in China. An online photo album provides a few more views of the China quilts at PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=9907&view=UserAlbum. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Archival research and collective memories from close at hand and afar are bringing an intriguing story to life–a kind of SERRV project a decade or two ahead of SERRV, a hunger action program 50 years ahead of the Global Food Crisis Fund,” reports Howard Royer.

Earlier this fall Royer–who manages the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund–was loaned two unique quilt pieces by Marjorie Morse Kauffman of Lancaster, Pa.: a bed quilt and a quilted runner. The quilts were made of white cloth, appliqued with blue fabric in a floral pattern.

All that Kauffman knew about them were that the tops had been sewn together and appliqued by women in China as part of the former Brethren mission program there, prior to World War II. The quilt tops were then made available to churches in the US. Kauffman had found the two quilt tops in a trunk of things owned by her grandmother, and had the pieces quilted in Elgin, Ill.

Royer asked Ken Shaffer, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and his assistant Denise Kettering to find out more about the origin of the quilts.

“Denise and I have spent a couple blocks of time this week looking for documentation of teaching embroidery/sewing/etc. in China,” Shaffer reported back by e-mail. “We found this sentence in a June 1931 report written by Emma Horning: ‘Sis. Bright continues to conduct the beautiful sewing of women of Ping Ting, the returns of which support a number of budgets on the field.’ Also we found a photo labeled ‘Mrs. Bright and Chinese helper planning needle work.’”

The same picture appeared in an old issue of the denominational magazine, accompanying a story titled “The Hungry Are Fed” by Minnie Bright. Mentioned in the story was a “Woman’s Industrial.” A sentence read, “From among the 60 women who are at present doing needlework to support themselves, about 25 have been brought to new life through this means.”

Shaffer continued: “In an issue of ‘The Star of Cathay’ (no date but about 1934 or 1935) we found this statement: ‘The industrial needlework in Ping Ting is making it possible for more then [sic] 60 women to provide food for more than 200 mouths. All these women are given class work in reading, hygiene, maternity welfare, and Gospel teaching.’”

Royer found out more after sharing the story of the quilts with Joe Wampler of Santa Cruz, Calif., who grew up in China, the son of missionaries Ernest and Elizabeth Wampler. He pursued the topic with heirs of former China missionaries and reported that embroidery work “was encouraged by many missionary denominations as a way for widows to earn a living in feudal China. In the old days, if a woman’s husband died the widow was practically without resources. So the mission women would set up a cottage industry for these women and then promote their handcrafts in the big cities and also in America.

“In the Church of the Brethren mission the center for embroidery was in Ping Ting and was run by Minnie Bright,” Wampler continued. “Homer and Minnie Bright were in China from Sept. 1911 until Feb. 1938…. Marie Oberholtzer remembers it as a major cottage industry run by Minnie in the 1930s. She said that the Chinese women usually embroidered onto linen and made table cloths, bed covers, etc.”

The quilt pieces have been displayed at the Church of the Brethren General Offices and at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill. The church’s Global Mission Partnerships hopes to display the quilt pieces at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Pittsburgh next July.

An online photo album offers several pictures of the quilts, go to www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserAlbum&AlbumID=9907 . Those with more information about the women’s handcraft ministries that were part of the Church of the Brethren’s China mission are invited to contact Royer at hroyer@brethren.org  or Shaffer at kshaffer@brethren.org .

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact cobnews@brethren.org  to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

Brethren in the News

“Twin Falls Community Church of the Brethren vandalized over weekend,” Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho (Dec. 17, 2009). Pastors at the Community Church of the Brethren are praying for whoever vandalized their place of worship. Small bits of broken glass still littered the floor Wednesday where Pastors Mark and Kathryn Bausman preach. A perpetrator burglarized the Twin Falls church sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning. http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/

Also see “Vandals strike Twin Falls church” Associated Press (Dec. 17, 2009) http://www.localnews8.com/Global/story.asp?S=11694540

“Let it ‘Shine’: Seminary student releases CD with Christian message,” Augusta Free Press, Waynesboro, Va. (Dec. 16, 2009). Jessica Crawford, a seminary student with connections to Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, has released her first solo CD, “Shine,” a mix of acoustic rock and folk with a Christian message. http://augustafreepress.com/2009/12/16/let-it-shine/

“Boise church opens doors,” KBOI News/Talk Radio, Boise, Idaho (Dec. 16, 2009). Jeff Hanson with the Mountain View Church of the Brethren in Boise, Idaho, said they will open their doors to the needy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. “With people losing jobs and homes and having no place to go during the day, we thought we we’re compelled by Christ to open our days and help them out.” http://www.670kboi.com/Article.asp?id=1627771&spid=

“Twelve Days of Caring: Brethren Housing Association helps moms, kids get new start,” Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. (Dec. 15, 2009). Brethren Housing Association, sponsored by 11 churches and supported by other churches, private foundations, businesses, and individuals, offers transitional housing for homeless women with dependent children in Harrisburg, Pa. The ministry is connected with First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg and Hanoverdale Church of the Brethren, among other congregations. In this article, the Brethren Housing Association is presented by the “Patriot-News” in its “12 Days of Caring” series highlighting a dozen charities that provide services in the community. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2009/12/

“Living nativity serves as a reminder as Christmas approaches,” York (Pa.) Daily Record (Dec. 13, 2009). Bermudian Church of the Brethren in East Berlin, Pa., hosted an annual nativity scene featuring several adults, children, and barnyard animals who re-created the biblical image of Jesus Christ’s birth. Pastor Larry Dentler portrayed one of the three wise men in the nativity. “I just always hope that maybe some folks that are rushed or stressed…for a moment will focus on the real meaning of Christmas,” he told the newspaper. http://ydr.inyork.com/ci_13990046

“Tulpehocken senior’s first quilt raises $4,200 for disaster relief,” Reading (Pa.) Eagle (Dec. 13, 2009). Though she’d never really sewn before, high school senior Sarah Wise chose a graduation project heavy on the sewing: Craft a quilt and raffle it for charity. Her hard work paid off because her quilt sold not once, but twice, netting a total of $4,200 during the annual Church of the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center & Fairgrounds. Wise has traveled to the Gulf coast to help people rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and had seen firsthand the difference that Disaster Relief efforts make in people’s lives. http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=176312

“A mother’s mission,” Lancaster (Pa.) Sunday News (Dec. 12, 2009). After the death of her son, LoriJo Peters of Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., has transformed her profound personal loss into tangible hope for others around the world. Kenton and LoriJo Peters’ son Collin was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2007. His mother found her mission through sending stuffed animals to children in the Dominican Republic, delivered by her husband and others on church mission trips, and through raising money to send live animals via Heifer International to help those in poverty. http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/246225

“Nativities on display at Newton Church of the Brethren’s open house,” Newton Kansan, (Dec. 7, 2009). Newton (Kan.) Church of the Brethren’s open house from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, will feature more than 200 nativities. Donations of non-perishable grocery items or cash to the Harvest of Love food drive will be accepted. http://www.thekansan.com/community/x1964352719/

“Ethmer Erisman, the pastor with the pony cart, enjoys helping others,” Digital Burg, Warrensburg, Mo. (Dec. 7, 2009). “This city has many inspirational people who give back to the community, and Ethmer Erisman is one of those people,” begins an article at DigitalBurg.com. Erisman is one of the team of pastors at Warrensburg Church of the Brethren. He is known for volunteering his pony cart at community events, including the annual Crop Walk. http://www.digitalburg.com/artman2/publish/

“eBay and old photos give granddaughters glimpse into life of a quiet man,” Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun (Dec. 7, 2009). Reporter Tom Stafford reviews the life of Church of the Brethren member David Flora (1880-1954), after his two grand-daughters recently found some photos of him. One was on sale on eBay, another displayed in a restaurant booth showing their grandfather at work at a long-time local grocery store in Springfield, named Clauer Brothers. http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/springfield-news/

“South Bend event offers shoppers alternative gifts,” South Bend (Ind.) Tribune (Dec. 6, 2009). A report on the annual “Giving with a Purpose” alternative gift fair at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind. The four-hour event on Sat., Dec. 5, was the 10th held at the church, where members helped by hosting a bake sale and staffing booths for organizations such as Hope Ministries, St. Margaret’s House, and Ten Thousand Villages. http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20091206/

“Maple Spring church names new pastor,” Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. (Dec. 4, 2009). Guy L. Myers has been named pastor of Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Hollsopple, Pa. http://www.tribune-democrat.com/events/

“University Park warms up to idea of solar energy: Co-op aims to install panels on church, school,” The Gazette, Gaithersburg, Md. (Dec. 2, 2009). The Christmas tree in University Park, Md., will be a lot more eco-friendly this year. For the first time it will be powered entirely by solar energy, thanks to solar panels provided by the University Park Solar Co-op. The 20-member co-op was founded by residents two years ago with the goal of investing in renewable energy sources for the town. The tree was their first major project, and they now have their sights set on bringing solar power to University Park Church of the Brethren and University Park Elementary School. http://www.gazette.net/stories/12032009/

“New Pacific Northwest titles for every interest,” The Oregonian (Dec. 2, 2009). A book by Jeffrey Kovac, “Refusing War, Affirming Peace: A History of Civilian Public Service Camp No. 21 at Cascade Locks” tops the list of titles for holiday shoppers recommended by The Oregonian. The book tells the story of the Cascade Locks camp for conscientious objectors during World War II, which was sponsored by the Church of the Brethren. The short review notes that actor Lew Ayres, was assigned there. Author Kovac is a chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee and an authority on nonviolence and the history of conscientious objectors during World War II. His father-in-law, Charles Davis, was assigned to the Cascade Locks camp and assisted his research. http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index.ssf/2009/12/

“Forreston house walk will benefit ACS,” Ogle County (Ill.) News (Dec. 2, 2009). West Branch Church of the Brethren in Polo, Ill., was one of the destinations for an annual “Christmas in the Country House Walk” on Sat., Dec. 5. Proceeds went to the American Cancer Society. West Branch, organized in 1846, was the first Church of the Brethren in Ogle County. A stone church building was completed in 1862 and is the structure that is there today. http://www.oglecountynews.com/articles/2009/12/02/

“Alternative Holiday Fair to sell international gifts,” State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. (Dec. 1, 2009). An Alternative Holiday Fair at Springfield (Ill.) Church of the Brethren on Dec. 4-5 offered a selection of international gifts including toys, games, desk accessories, musical instruments, baskets, jewelry, housewares, gift baskets and holiday items. Many of them were purchased from nonprofit alternative trade organizations SERRV and Ten Thousand Villages. http://www.sj-r.com/homepage/x1945273532/

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