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Only the Clothes on Her Back: Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the 19th-Century United States
  • Date: Thursday, March 17, 2022
  • Time: 1:00 pm
  • Location: Online

Historian Laura F. Edwards explains how textiles tell a story of ordinary people and how they made use of their material goods’ economic and legal value in the period between the Revolution and the Civil War. Edwards uncovers long-forgotten practices that made textiles—clothing, cloth, bedding, and accessories—a unique form of property that people without rights could own and exchange. The value of textiles depended on law, and it was law that turned these goods into a secure form of property for marginalized people. Edwards grounds the laws relating to textiles in engaging stories from the lives of everyday Americans and shows that these stories are about far more than cloth and clothing; they reshape our understanding of law and the economy in America.

Women’s History Month programming is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Denise Gwyn Ferguson.