Cover to Cover

Books by UNH faculty and alumni

The Age of Homespun, by Laurel Ulrich '80G
Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home, by Nina Glick Schiller and Georges Eugene Fouron

Also of note:
Tom Osenton '76
Barbara Dimmick '76, '83G
Ginny Lowe Connors '73
John A. Bagonzi '56
Paul L. Briand III '75
Robert S. Billings '42
Dorothy Emery Hazzard '45
Garrett E. Crow and C. Barre Hellquist '65, '66G

The Age of Homespun:
Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
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Laurel Ulrich, a professor of history at Harvard University, wrote this book to answer a question that arose while she was working on her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Midwife's Tale. How had a 17th-century male enterprise, cloth-making, turned into women's work by the late 18th century? She combed museums and historical societies across New England in search of objects made from homespun cloth and the tools that were used to produce them. Fourteen of those objects, including spinning wheels, woven baskets, a tablecloth, bedcoverings and an unfinished sock-provide the framework for a fascinating study of early-American history.

The idea of a virtuous "age of homespun" is a myth created by 19th-century Americans, who were already longing for "the good old days," when hardworking families lived on farms and wore clothing made by wives and mothers. The truth, Ulrich says, is more complex. Cloth production did not become women's work until the economy began to shift from subsistence farming to more industrial activities like woodworking and shipbuilding. "Farmers and their sons concentrated on market production, while children and women produced less saleable commodities for family use," Ulrich writes. "The end result was an 'industrious revolution' that transformed the Western world."

One of Ulrich's chapters focuses on two spinning wheels that she found in the garret of the William Damm Garrison, part of the Woodman Institute in Dover, N.H. A garrison is a military post, which suggests one story from history; tools for making yarn suggest another. But Ulrich shows how the history of textile production in New England is intertwined with war and the displacement of the native people.

About the spinning wheels, Ulrich concludes: "No one knows who made them, but they do have a story. It begins with the transformation of textile technology from the continent to the British Isles in the 16th and 17th centuries and from Britain to America in successive waves of immigration. It is a story about conquest as well as settlement, about imperial objectives and Protestant vision, and about the distribution of work in colonial households."

"Sometimes the most useful insights come from pondering the harnesses and treadles that move the interlocking threads of daily life," Ulrich writes. In this study, she shows us how to see mundane objects as the tools that shape history.

Georges Woke Up Laughing:
Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home
See at

This is a study of the experience of "transmigrants," immigrants who are citizens of the United States but still maintain close ties to their homeland. But it is also a deeply personal account of the authors' experiences with migration and a case study of Haitian "long-distance nationalism."

Schiller, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, and Fouron, an associate professor of education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, interviewed 109 Haitians, including many members of Fouron's own family, to explore "the nature of the relationship between the United States and Haiti and the lessons to be learned from the new form of citizenship-transborder citizenship-which this relationship has encouraged."

These contemporary immigrants, the authors argue, have forged a different model of immigration from that found in earlier generations. This new model includes both the immigrants' sense of themselves as Americans and an intense desire to improve conditions in their homeland.

Their findings are fascinating, and Fouron's experiences as a first-generation Haitian immigrant are particularly illuminating. The authors show how "family" in Haiti functions as a network that ensures survival in a disastrous economy. Those who stay behind rely heavily upon family members who emigrate. Fouron writes about the varied obligations he must fulfill in the United States and the complicated nature of his visits to Haiti, where he is expected to deliver money and gifts to a wide range of people. "The nation is an extension of the family," the authors write, adding that both family and nation can extend long distances and across the borders of states.

Schiller and Fouron developed this book concept during a research trip to Haiti in 1996. Immigration is clearly an important topic, and it is treated here with great depth and originality.~