Monday, October 19, 2015

Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster (1867-1950)

Difficult as it is to believe, it has been 7 years since I finished researching and writing a book about Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster. What brings her to mind today? Well, I just ran across a paragraph that another researcher wrote that is totally incorrect. It is difficult to imagine that a young girl between 3 years old and 13 would be making a charm quilt, and yet that is what is inferred by the statement that Ellen E. Hardy and her sisters Nettie, Mary and Lucy were "making quilts during the time the charm pattern became popular in the 1870s," a quote from a WPA book titled Hands That Built New Hampshire written by various authors in 1940. Ellen was born in 1867.

The article by Pat L. Nichols found in Uncoverings 1996, a publication of the American Quilt Study Group, misattributes the institution to which the quilt charts made by Ellen E. Webster were given upon her death. They are held in the collection of the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, New Hampshire (no connection to Manchester, NH as stated in the journal article). Ellen is buried in Franklin, New Hampshire, not Concord, as stated. I know. I visited her gravesite when I was researching the book Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster 1867-1950: Her Amazing Quilt "Charts," Her Writings, and Her Life (2008, Quilter's Muse Publications). There are several other minor errors such as the spelling of Ellen's nephew's last name.

This is not the first time that faulty information about Ellen E. Webster has crept into print and into the media. After the publication of a journal article in Historical New Hampshire, written by a former NHHS curator, a local TV station showed Ellen as a wispy, ghost-like figure in the background because no information was known about her and certainly no one realized that there are photo images of Ellen E. Webster (misnamed in the article as Emily Webster). She continued to be misnamed by the same author in several academic journals.

Part of the confusion was that of the curator who "looked" at Ellen's quilt charts and saw the name "Emily Webster." There was, indeed, a woman, in fact a friend of Ellen, whose name was Emily Webster. She and her sister, Ellen A. Webster, a maiden school teacher, were both friends of Ellen E. Webster.

Ellen E. Webster, the subject of my book, was an extraordinary woman! She was a writer, a lecturer, a professor of Biblical studies, a scientist, a musician, a quilt lover and quilt historian, etc. I do not have enough kind words to describe the life of this woman, both charming and beautiful from a very early age!

It somehow does a disservice to Ellen E. Webster when facts about her appear in print that are simply not true. Her quilt charts and her dedication to quilt study were in league with other quilt historian contemporaries of the time, also mentioned in my book and profiled. The trouble lies in the fact that whenever wrong information makes its way into print, it tends to be taken as "Gospel" and is then repeated by subsequent writers who have done no primary research of their own and certainly no fact-checking.

The story of Ellen's life is just so lovely! My book has 355 pages and 340 photos, including images of all of her quilt charts and many photos provided by her family. The e-book is still available. Please send me an e-mail at for ordering details, if you are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself. I can guarantee that it is a captivating book! (It can be played on any computer without any special device). The total price is $24.95 (no shipping will be added). You'll be so glad you did!

Patricia Cummings
Quilter's Muse Publications

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