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1930s Farmers Wife

1930's Farmer's Wife: Grandmother

The Grandmother block can be found on page 144 of the  1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler  (page 199 for template instructions.)

The Grandmother block can be found on page 144 of the 1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler (page 199 for template instructions.)

Click here for the original Farmer's Wife Magazine, the letter written by Granddaughter in Idaho can be found on page 6.

June 1937

Scandal rocked the British Empire when the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson, an American two-time divorcee. Because the British Monarch is head of the Church of England, it is prohibited for the monarch to marry a divorcee. As a result, King Edward VIII chose to abdicate his throne in favor of his wife, making his younger brother, George VI the new king. Interestingly, the Duke of Windsor is a peerage title that was created for Edward after his abdication.

The marriage and scandal between Edward and Wallis Simpson hounded the royal family that had only just begun recovering from the death of George V, was facing a very real threat of war on the continent, and stood against whispers of personal connections between Nazi higher-ups and Edward himself. But George VI stepped into his brothers role admirably, albeit unwillingly, and lead his empire through the Second World War. The King’s Speech is a wonderful movie from George’s perspective on this particular time in British history, it’s one of my favorite movies and I highly recommend it.

The corpse flower blooming in 1937 at New York Botanical Garden. Courtesy of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and the New York Botanical Garden

The corpse flower blooming in 1937 at New York Botanical Garden. Courtesy of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and the New York Botanical Garden

In the United States, things were a little less scandalous. The world's largest flower bloomed at the NY Botanical Gardens. A 12’ corpse flower bloomed and interested Americans lined up to see and smell this botanical oddity.

While I personally have a fondness for plants and botany, (Handsomepants has barred me from anymore additions to my plant collection) I would not appreciate a 12’, bright yellow column of plant tissue that smells like rotten meat gracing my living room window sills. I do think this plant is interesting, but I doubt I’ll be visiting the next time it blooms. Corpse flowers are capable of blooming every 3 to 10 years.

On a more pleasant note, Granddaughter’s letter to the editor is a touching one. When she describes how the whole family comes together to take care of “the grandmother problem” of a single, elderly woman living alone and feeling isolated from her family, is endearing. It’s really a new, American idea that families are nuclear and not inter-generational. With the proliferation of the old-people’s-homes, I wonder about how much relationship is lost between grandparents and their grandchildren, and what kinds of impact that has on society at large.

The Block

The Grandmother block is so cute! I've secretly always admired basket blocks, I think it's the tradition behind them that I'm drawn too.  A classic design that's survived the centuries and through the generations, basket blocks were popular in the early 1800's and saw a revival in popularity in the 1920-30's.

  I'm debating about adding a handle to this block or keeping it original to the book, I haven't decided yet. Adding a handle through applique wouldn't be too difficult, if my machine is up to the task, the dog feeders have been finicky lately.

Since I’ve been focusing on moving house lately I have lost my notebook with all of the pre-cut measurements. I’m sorry you’ll have to suffer though estimating or self-measuring the squares and rectangles your self! The only tricky part is a single y-seam needed to complete the bottom right corner.

Happy Quilting!

  • Rita

1930's Farmer's Wife: Lily

The Lily block can be found on page 34 of the  1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler  (page 210 for template instructions.)

The Lily block can be found on page 34 of the 1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler (page 210 for template instructions.)

Click here for the original Farmer's Wife Magazine, the letter written by Mrs. E. E. H. in Wyoming can be found on page 18.

July 1930

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in the early morning of July 7, surrounded by family.  He had made plans with family members to try to contact them "from the other side." Conan Doyle was a well known Spiritualist, a widespread belief that communication with the dead was possible. Conan Doyle had established or member to a number of psychic and supernatural clubs throughout most of his life. He had even ended, in a very ugly and public manner, a long time friendship with Harry Houdini over the validity of seances, Houdini was an avid opponent of the Spiritualism movement. The day of his funeral, 6,000 spiritualists were in attendance, and renowned medium Estelle Roberts claims to have relayed a message to Conan Doyle’s widow fro him. Whether or not Conan Doyle was capable of reaching across the divide from death, I don’t know, but I’m doubtful.

One thing I’ve noticed from the last several Farmer’s Wives’ Letters is a running theme of thankfulness and an attitude of count-your-blessings. Mrs. E. E. H. makes no bones about being poor and homesteading in Wyoming. But she’s thankful for the good man and father her husband is, she’s thankful for the health of her four children, she’s thankful for the beauty that comes with the changing of the seasons, and she’s thankful for the fulfillment she finds in the work of raising poultry. I can’t help but wonder at the excess that modern Americans live in and how many of us ever stop to be thankful for it.

The Block

The Lily block was fun and much more simple to make than I had thought. When I first looked at the block, I had thought that Y-seams would have been part of its construction, but the lily petals are actually a series of squares and HSTs that create half the block.

I would recommend that you cut the B pieces a little longer than the templates if those are what you're using. As you can see from the top right corner of the main picture, sometimes blocks don't always come out just right!

Also beware of creating thick seams! With all those little pieces it's very easy for seams to pile up. Don't be afraid to rip out some paper template if you need to during block construction so you can press seams flat.

Happy Quilting!

  • Rita

1930's Farmer's Wife: Fern

The Fern block can be found on page 62 of the  1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler  (page 194 for template instructions.)

The Fern block can be found on page 62 of the 1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler (page 194 for template instructions.)

Click here for the original Farmer's Wife Magazine, the letter written by I Serve in Indiana can be found on page 16.

July 1932

 1932 was not a particularly good year for the international economy. The Anglo-Irish Trade War stated at the beginning of July when the British Parliament implemented a 100% tariff on all Irish goods. This tariff was a retaliation against the Irish decision to end the payment of land annuities to the British that dated from the 1880’s. The annuities had been designed as a way for Irish tenant farmers to purchase land from their British landlords, but ultimately constituted a never ending form of income for those British landlords and their descendants. In the short term, the trader war was devastating to the Irish economy which had already felt the extended effects of the American Great Depression. But in the long run, the Irish would benefit from the trade war with increased trade, no tariffs, and the repayment of £400 million in over taxation by the British government.

 In the United States the economy was faring even worse. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 41.22 points, its absolute lowest point of the Great Depression and a 90% loss of its value from the peak of September 1929. As an attempt to boost the economic power of the average American, President Herbert Hoover signed the Emergency Relief and Construction Act into law.  The ERC Act released federal funds for public construction works, with the intention of creating temporary government jobs for the duration of construction. Unfortunately this only helped lead to inflation and an even greater drop in the buying power of the dollar.

 But as the US economy was slipping further into depression, Americans like I Serve reminded one another to serve both our communities but also ourselves. Serving communal needs helps to build relationships and remind us that sometimes the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. And while I Serve warned that too much self-service leads to selfishness, it is important to take a moment for ourselves. I think we can all relate to her sense of peace and accomplishment that comes with finishing a quilt, especially when we can share them with friends.

The Block


Unfortunately I lost the list of pre-cut sizes I had written down while making the Fern block, and I’m just too lazy to remeasure them, so you’re on your own this time. But I have faith you’re capable of measuring template sizes.

As always, I would highly recommend coloring or labeling which fabric goes where. There are lots of little pieces and it’s easy to place the wrong fabric in the wrong place.

The Fern block can be a little tricky if you’re not used to Y-seams, but the angle of these seams is rather large so the seams aren’t too tricky to sew. I started by sewing the very center seam the aligns with the A piece, the very center square. Lock your seams at the start and end of the line, this will make it easier for you when you start manipulating the block.


When you’re ready to sew the seams along the C pieces, pin in place, and finger press the block open before you use an iron. This will help you see if you need to pull out the seam ripper and readjust the pieces. When I was happy with the way I had sewn the seams, I pressed the seams towards the center of the block.

I typically don’t press dark fabrics towards light fabrics, but sometimes you just do what you have to do in order to make a block sit flat.


Happy Quilting!

  • Rita

1930's Farmer's Wife: Caroline

The Caroline block can be found on page 60 of the  1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler  (page 179 for template instructions.)

The Caroline block can be found on page 60 of the 1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler (page 179 for template instructions.)

Click here for the original Farmer's Wife Magazine, the letter written by What-Is-Man in Montana can be found on page 12.

July 1933

A governmental decree made it illegal for a parent to name their Hitler, or any variant of Hitler. This decree came at an interesting time, just days before an Austrian newspaper printed a three page story claiming proof that Hitler had Jewish heritage on his mother’s side, and still had Jewish family members in the city of Polna. Other rumors have been added to the mystery surrounding Hitler’s family origins, including a debate on whether he is the product of an incestuous relationship between his mother and her uncle, which some scholars believe to be substantive. Either way, it is interesting to note that Alexander Basch, the Polna city registrar had died around the time of the newspaper’s publication. Hitler also ordered the destruction of all official documentation regarding his heritage, so it is very unlikely that historians will ever have any solid evidence to validate or refute these rumors.

The United States was experiencing it’s own bit of rumor as a bizarre event was unfolding, known as the Business Plot. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, at the time the highest ranked and most decorated Marine, claims to have been approached by a number of wealthy business men with the intention of creating a fascist veteran’s organization that would launch a coup against the United States government and overthrow President Roosevelt.

At the time, the Business Plot was dismissed as a hoax, but historians now agree that something was afoot even if a coup never actually materialized. It’s believed that Roosevelt’s decision to end the gold standard, the Securities Act of 1933, and the promise of government subsidized jobs were the main motivating factors for the alleged coup. Those reconstructions of the US economy lead to inflation and the undermining of personal and corporate wealth (the value of the dollar dropped 30% practically overnight), and were seen as socialist expansion of government control over private business. In 1934 it was decided that a Congressional investigation was necessary, although the investigation found there was no evidence to substantiate the claims make by Butler.

 But what I find interesting is that as events were taking place world wide that set the groundwork for some of the most life altering, atrocious events in history, everyday Americans were focused on living and life. The early thirties were the height of the Great Depression and Americans like What-Is-Man were counting their blessings. All things necessary for the sun to rise, or snowflakes to fall, or bodies to form and function are amazing if you just take the time to think about them.

The Block

 While writing this blog post I couldn’t find any pictures or notes I usually take while making each of the Farmer’s Wife blocks. So that means there’s no paper template or pre-cut sizes for you today. I would suggest, as always, to color your paper template so that it’s easier for you to keep fabrics in order. There are lots of pieces that are the same shape and size and it’s better to be prepared than it is to rip seams!


Happy Quilting!

  • Rita

1930's Farmer's Wife: Rosemary

The Rosemary block can be found on page 104 of the  1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler  (page 247 for template instructions.)

The Rosemary block can be found on page 104 of the 1930's Farmer's Wife Sampler (page 247 for template instructions.)

Click here for the original Farmer's Wife Magazine, the letter written by Right-at-Home in North Dakota can be found on page 12.

July 1933

1933 in general was a tumultuous year for Germany. This was the year that the Wiemar Republic came to an end and the establishment of the German Third Reich occurred. Rapid inflation and an unsteady economy was the hallmark of the Wiemar government, along with political violence between black-clad Communists and brown-shirted Nazi Socialists. High unemployment rates of WWI veterans only helped to sew the seeds of discord in a country trying desperately to recover from the First World War.

But not all changes were limited to the realm of politics. While many changes were political in form, they were more cultural in nature. The Third Reich began to issue laws that restricted the employment of married women. The fields of both study and employ as well as the hours worked were severely limited compared to what had been available to women the previous year. Hitler’s government placed great emphasis on the importance of women begetting and raising the next generation as part of the government’s Blood and Soil policy.

Women were also starting to experience the beginnings of the Reich’s eugenics program, inspired by the works of Margaret Sanger. Individuals with hereditary and non-hereditary birth defects were sterilized. In many cases a woman was deemed to have no physical defects, but rather moral defects that were prohibited by the government. Things such as prostitution, addiction or alcoholism, alleged promiscuity, and “repeated rebelliousness” were considered moral defects that resulted in mandatory sterilization. Women were first invited to present themselves voluntarily for the procedure, but eventually many were arrested by gestapo and forced to undergo sterilization.

While ominous and oppressive clouds formed over Germany, life continued on as normal in the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enraged international players in the wold market by refusing to return the dollar to the gold standard, which would have depleted the US of her gold reserves and inflated prices in exchanges for maybe stabilizing foreign currencies. Roosevelt noted a duty and responsibility to protect American interests, as well as other countries deficit spending as his main reasons for remaining on the silver standard.

While the president was protecting the American economy on an international front, the Congress was making it’s own economic decisions as well. The first minimum wage law was passed, setting a national minimum wage of ¢33. Historians account this well intended piece of legislation as a significant factor in increasing the duration of the Great Depression. Mandatory minimum wages laws resulted in many more men being laid off because their employers could or would not pay the increased overhead.

Something about Right-at-Home’s letter to the editor speaks to where I am in life at the moment. I grew up in a small town and longed for that big city life, adventure in the great wide some where. But now that the kids are growing up, all I can dream about is country living complete with splashing in creeks and dirty bare feet at the end of the day. I have found city living to be crowded, stressful and expensive. Waiting on moving is a test of patience, but I’m looking forward to finding what Right-at-Home found: that life doubled back and was waiting for her at the very place she had run from.

The Block

There are lots and lots and lots of tiny pieces in this block so prepare accordingly! Color that template ahead of time and always double check the placement of your fabric pieces before you stitch any seams. And, as always, be mindful of how you press your seams. This block has lots of seams and can easily become gnarly and thick.



A (1) 1 3/4 x 1 3/4"

B (4) 3 x 1 1/2" 

C (4) 1 3/4 x 1 3/4", cut into HST's

D (2) 2 x 2", cut into HST's

E (8) 2 1/4 c 2 1/4", cut into HST's

F (16) 1 x 1"

G (4) 1 1/4 x 1 1/4"


Happy Quilting!

  • Rita