Monday, January 22, 2007

Favorite Things Monday - My Hoosier

For a long time, Favorite Things Monday has languished. The original concept was to focus on the positive, but FTM quickly morphed into whatever sparked my interest on that day. Positive? Yes. Focused? Not so much. Then it fell off entirely. But since it was such a favorite in my little reader survey, I'm going to revive it. Here goes:

This is my Hoosier cabinet. I love it. I love it dearly. My Mom found it at a yard sale in about 1990. It was painted red. [Yes, someone painted it. Oy.] In addition to it's overall charm, Mom noticed the original Sellers tag, most of the original hardware, the sugar dispenser, the covered tin bread drawer and several original glass spice jars. Recognizing the value of the piece, MafiaMom found a talented restoration pro, had it stripped and refinished, and had one of the glass doors replaced. While the restoration may have diminished its value in the official antique marketplace, it revived this old lady, and brought an antique gem into our family.

Several years ago, MafiaMom visited my apartment in J.P., saw the perfect spot for the cabinet, and offered to sell it to me. At first, I was conflicted. I didn't love the style. It was heavy and old and expensive and fiddly. But Wifey loved it, so we bought it (and spent the next several years paying Mom in dribs and drabs).

I've had Hoosier Cabinets by Philip Kennedy on my Amazon wish list and someday I'm going to buy it. Among other things, it'll tell me what year my Hoosier was built, which parts are original and give me a roadmap for maintaining my little antique gem. I've started hunting eBay for replacement hardware because the old hardware on Ms. 1890's kitchen cabinets is similar, and when we renovate the kitchen, I'd like to use antique hardware that matches my cabinet. In addition, I'm saving digital copies of vintage ads so I can design my kitchen with the period in mind. Without that classic text about my cabinet, I've been completely ignorant of her history. Even without the book, I've very recently started to find her history here and there.

Hoosiers are generally considered 'depression era' pieces, so I always assumed it was built in the 1930s. But I've recently discovered some Sellers advertisements from the early 1900s, and I'm fairly sure mine was built in 1917. I used to envision the kind of family that could afford such a beautiful cabinet during the depression, and I couldn't relate to their life at all.

But now that my cabinet was born in 1917, I envision a world of possibilities. Was her first owner a wife and mother? A wife and mother and activist? A lady in a boston marriage? Instead of envisioning a woman kneading dough to feed her family, I envision Mrs. Agnes Moray, Miss Janet Fotheringham and Miss Lucy Burns perched on stools over the porcelain counter, writing letters, planning demonstrations, coordinating support for their jailed sisters, succeeding in NY State -- not realizing that they would be jailed together at Occoquan. And then I envision them, three years later, setting glass goblets on the porcelain counter, pouring cordials, and toasting their victory.

Little did these ladies realize that 90 years later the same porcelain counter would hold poster paint belonging to the boy child of lesbian moms, and the glass cabinet would house a porcelain mug inscribed with Votes For Women in honor of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont's sassy hospitality:

Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont (1853-1933), born in Alabama, grew up as a Southern lady. Upon marrying into the wondrously rich Vanderbilt family, Alva focused her impressive energies on winning over New York Society. Her divorce from William Vanderbilt and ensuing marriage to, even richer, Oliver Belmont caused a sensation. The scandal forced the hitherto sheltered society dame to reconsider women's position.

When the Women's Trade Union League in 1909 supported the garment workers' on strike. Mrs. Belmont personally went on the streets of New York City; into the city's jailed and bailed out the arrested strikers. This strike was her initiation into the woman's suffrage movement. She established her own Political Equality League, paid for the office space for a national NAWSA office in New York City, and underwrote a national press bureau for the association. While her sudden plunge into the movement aroused some skepticism, her commitment proved enduring.

When radical Alice Paul broke off from NAWSA, Mrs. Belmont left the NAWSA to become one of Paul's most significant supporters. It was at her famous home, Marble House, in Newport, Rhode Island that Alice Paul and her cohorts formulated their plan to hold President Wilson and the Democrats responsible for the lack of progress on woman suffrage.

Mrs. Belmont commissioned her own set of "Votes for Women" china for a major Suffrage dinner party at Marble House. When the dinner was over, each guest was given a place setting to take home. "
Since I will not be spending $6500 on 4 pieces of the original china ( ... don't think I didn't consider it ... ), perhaps I should start collecting the reproduction Votes For Women china. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to honor the history of my Hoosier?


jill said...

There is a catalog available for restoring old things, like the Hoosier and houses.It's here:

I drool every time Dad shares his latest copy with me and I'm not restoring anything or building any projects currently. I hope this helps in some way.

Anonymous said...

Hi, de-lurking (though I guess that official week happened a while ago) to introduce myself and compliment you on your blog. I've run into your blog a couple of times before -- because we were interested in knitting the same pattern (Pearl Buck Swing jacket & Arwen -- OK, I haven't actually knit any of them yet, but I have researched them thoroughly). I added you to my new Bloglines subscription and thought it seemed right to let you know who I was. I have a 3 year old son, a Ph.D. in women's history (so I loved today's post!) and I live about an hour or so west of you. I am among the tragically blogless . . . which just gives me more respect for those of you who do well-written, thoughtful blogs. Plus, you seem like a genuinely nice person. Thanks for giving me a little entertainment/food for thought/nice pictures to fill in those little pauses in my day.

Danielle said...

Wow, what a story! I had no idea that your cabinet had that much history...

Anonymous said...

I love your Hoosier cabinet. It's always been a dream of mine to own one. I bet she looks wonderful in Miss 1890.

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

I love the Hoosier, but Oh My Gosh ... I absolutely love the "Vote for Women" china. Oh you must collect it!

Anonymous said...

I am so ashamed. I had never heard the term "Boston marriage" before now. (And the article even says it was also called "Wellesley marriage"!) Shame. Shame, shame. Bad feminist.

Anyway, GREAT cabinet. I love how multifunctional it is. :-)

Anonymous said...

Also de-lurking! I've read you for a while and I saw the title of this post and had to comment. My name is Sam and I'm a college student in Indiana- yes, I am indeed a Hoosier. To my extreme disappointment, this post was not about me. ;) Anyways, hope things are well with you! Always enjoy seeing your knitting, it's tres inspiring to even us fellow "advanced" knitters. Peace!

Anonymous said...

Hurray for Favourite Things Monday! Oh my god! Votes for Women china! So awesome. Love the Hoosier. Makes my little IKEA "hutch" look like a pile of puke.

My Bloglines hasn't picked up your feed for your last few posts, so I'm a few posts behind on your blog - AND I was just looking for a way to procrastinate! I win!

Anonymous said...

hey! I'm originally from Susan B.'s hometown -- in fact, I may have spent more time in her house than she ever did, the hard-workin', far-travelin', long-suffragin' dame!

sooooo jealous of not only your Hoosier, but all that room you have in your house in which to display it ...

from the cozy country cottage,

~ hb33 ~

Anonymous said...

wow this piece is wonderful!

i found something similar (apparently called a hoosier) on craigslist once (except it was made of porcelain covered metal instead of the beautiful fabulous wood! i wanted it desperately, but of course, did not have any sort of place for it.

i love this piece. love it. love it.

Anonymous said...

I love Hoosier cabinets. When I lived up in Marblehead, I used to love browsing the antique stores on weekends looking at them.

Miss 1890 and Miss Hossier 1917 seem like a perfect match.