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Mind the gap: Materiality of gendered landscapes in Deerfield, Massachusetts, ca. 1870–ca. 1920

Elizabeth Ann Harlow, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Multiple narratives about the past are created over time, with some surviving into the twenty-first century and some forgotten or ignored. Deerfield, Massachusetts, is a place where many such histories have been constructed, in large part based on evidence gleaned from a rich array of material culture, ranging from the carefully preserved and interpreted architecture of a house museum of Historic Deerfield, Inc., to an overlooked vest button buried deep in its dooryard. The village has long been a place where inhabitants have much concerned themselves with writing historical stories and curating objects from the past, particularly the late seventeenth and eighteenth century colonial period. Until recently, not as much has been recovered, however, of the narrative about and by the women who, over a century later, helped initiate a vital enterprise—an arts and crafts revival—that set the stage for a stable village economy based, even today, in local cultural and educational institutions. In addition, these women were among the first to restore and renovate houses here and create a house museum for the public. Accordingly, the early growth of several important historical trends can be traced here, including the historic preservation movement and heritage tourism. Further, this dissertation explores insights into how and why the history of the lives and work of these important women has, at various times, become obscured. Artifacts available to help re-create this marginalized history abound. They include not only decorative objects such as embroidered pieces done by women of the Blue and White Society and metalwork by artist Madeline Yale Wynne, but also the latter's broken ceramics, a chance subterranean find, as well as evocative professional photographs by Deerfield sisters Mary and Frances Allen. This dissertation is a study of the materiality, an anthropological archaeology, of several key Deerfield women and their activities at the turn of the last century. It provides entry into and a more nuanced understanding of a gendered world that provided not only important foundations for local economies, but also wider practices of the Colonial Revival, Arts and Crafts, and historic preservation movements.

Subject Area

Archaeology|American history|Cultural Resources Management|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Harlow, Elizabeth Ann, "Mind the gap: Materiality of gendered landscapes in Deerfield, Massachusetts, ca. 1870–ca. 1920" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589033.