As I was working on my Cat Calender quilt, I kept thinking this can’t just be about cute cats. And they are cute, but they’re also doing all that traditional “women’s work” broken down into certain chores on certain days. It made me wonder who made up these rules about when to do what.
I also thought that the cats, except for the Saturday one eating her breakfast in her pajamas, didn’t look like they were very happy.
Being a woman who was expected to become a secretary until she got married and had kids, I might be projecting my own discomfort on these cats. The idea of having a preordained schedule for how a woman is expected to spend her days, makes me squirm.
I was hoping to at least slip a little irony into the quilt, maybe by my choice of fabric that surrounded the cats. But it wasn’t happening. So I put the cats aside not sure what to do next.
Then I read an article in the Atlantic called The Abortion Underground, by Jessica Bruder. In it, she writes about the Del-Em. It’s a medical device perfected by Ellie Rothman in 1971 before abortions were legal. Women could make it at home using plastic tubing, a syringe, a rubber stopper, and a mason jar.
It’s safe and even less invasive than how most early-term abortions are being done in medical facilities today. Rothman went around the country teaching midwives, and any woman who wanted to learn, how to make and use the device.
I found the article fascinating and empowering. This was only one part of the “underground”, but suddenly, the mason jar took on new meaning.
I’m missing Wednesday and Thursday on my Cat Calendar. But on one of those days, those cats must have been cooking and canning. Suddenly, in my mind, the mason jar became a symbol of a woman not only being able to feed her family but being able to make the decisions in her life that were best for herself.
The idea of combining the mason jars with the Cat Calendar quilt made my heart beat faster. It’s a good idea and just what the “cute” cats need to be more than just an old way of thinking about women and their place in society.
So, using my sewing machine, I drew three mason jars on the extra linen that I had cut away from the cat embroideries. Then I pieced them into my quilt.
I did hesitate about bringing the abortion issue into my work and onto my blog. I try not to be divisive. But I’m also not going to censure my voice or my art.
6 thoughts on “My “Cat Calendar” Quilt And The Mason Jars”
Powerful and Perfect
Thank you Janet.
Love it…great idea!!
Hi Maria. When I was barely 18, in 1970, I got pregnant from my first experience of sexual intercourse. I was alone, working as a dishwasher and scared. The shame I felt at being ‘stupid’ was almost paralyzing. In 1970 abortions were illegal except if a psychiatrist deemed you as ‘unfit to be a mother.’ Public Health here in California referred me to a psychiatrist who was gentle until I refused to be hypnotized by him. He wanted to hear what my subconscious feelings were about being pregnant. Some where, somehow I accessed clarity to say to him, “This is the conscious that would have to have and raise a child, not a sub conscious that’s hypnotized.” Where I got the strength to say such words to this man, who had the absolute power to determine crucial, life-long part of my fate I really don’t know. Thankfully he found me unfit.
Maria, I don’t write often but I wish to let you know the sisterhood/human connection I feel from your sharing.
Debrah, whenever I hear a story like yours, I think to myself, “your story is my story”. Even though abortion was legal when I was old enough to become pregnant I know it’s the fear and shame I can relate to. You were so brave to stand up for yourself. I know what you mean also when you say you didn’t know where that came from. And to think you had to feel grateful to be found “unfit”. Yet it shows this strength inside of you. Thank you for sharing your story.