Who Drew SunBonnet Sue?

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Primers and quilts go together to me. The SunBonnet Sue drawings have quite a history, and quilts are on my mind as the air grows cooler in the mornings. I’m thankful to the women who made the quilts in collaboration with other women and passed them on to me. I am reminded a formal art education and making a living in the nineteen century wasn’t acceptable for women.

Poet Catherine (Kate) Greenway published illustrations in newspapers of children that influenced Bertha Louis Corbett’s SunBonnet Babies–Molly and May–in her 1900, self-published book. The Overall Boys–Jack and Joe–were created in collaboration with Eulalie Osgood Grover who wrote the stories in the primers. Whether Bertha’s mother suggested covering the faces of children with hats, or Bertha came up with the idea to hide her deficiency in drawing faces, we will never know. The absence of a face spoke to me of the way a Victorian woman may have felt in an era of restrictions.

Besides the collectible school primers written with Long Ess and antique quilts, the Royal Bayreuth set of china figures depicts Molly and May in a different activity for each day of the week.

The photo below shows a quilt square from my great-grandmother’s handmade SunBonnet Sue quilt. Each woman in my family has a repaired framed square. This object I treasure.



2 thoughts on “Who Drew SunBonnet Sue?

  1. My sister (Lucy’s Aunt Jan, who quilts) got my mother’s Sunbonnet Sue quilt squares (never finished, but maybe someday). I love antiques and bits of the past. I never thought about the sunbonnet hiding the face, other than sun protection and making it easier to sew. I didn’t know of the comics or books. Such a great way to share a family treasure!

    1. I sent my great-grandmother’s quilt to a famous shop in Maine, and they repaired the fragile squares that could be saved. It’s been a while, but maybe I could find the name of the shop.

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