Saturday, January 19, 2013

21. Parasols and P.R.

Parasol by Becky Brown

Patty's Summer Parasol, a play on the Double Wedding Ring pattern, was published in the Kansas City Star in 1953. We can use the pieced and appliqued design to recall how American women used parasols as an emblem of their cause.

When sunshades were summer necessities, a symbol of women's delicacy, they also became a visual image in women's determination to obtain the vote.

A parasol could serve as billboard, here advertising suffrage teas---another adaptation of a traditional female institution into powerful public relations.

The message at its simplest was "Votes for Women."

During the 1916 Democratic convention in St. Louis where Woodrow Wilson was nominated for a second term, a "Golden Lane" of women wearing yellow sashes and carrying parasols lined the streets, a "walkless, talkless" protest reminding delegates every day of activists' persistence.

The Golden Lane

Three years later when the Missouri Legislature voted on ratification, women in the galleries applauded and waved yellow parasols after each legislator voted in favor of the 19th amendment. "As the certainty of the successful outcome of the roll-call was more apparent, the volume of cheering and the medley of the waving yellow sun-shades increased." The Southeast Missourian, July 15, 1919

Portland, Oregon, 1912
The Parasol by Becky Brown

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

The parasol pattern is BlockBase #951.

Parasol by Dustin Cecil
The 8" pattern.
See the 3 pages for the 12" pattern below.

 I re-numbered the ruffle pieces along the edge as three pieces. Cut 1 E, 1 F and 6 D
The Kansas City Star pattern had you piece the curved umbrella into the background but here you applique the umbrella to an 8-1/2" square and ignore pieces A and B, as Dustin and Becky did. 

Here's how Becky pieced the parasol over the paper pattern.
First she cut fabric with the seam allowances included.
She cut paper templates ignoring the seam allowances, folded the fabric edges over each
and glued the seam allowances down with a glue stick.
The pins tell her what's top and bottom of each piece.

She then whip-stitched the ruffle to the umbrella and removed the paper.

After you have pieced the ruffle to piece C you can applique it with the handle and top knot.

 The parasols seem to be advertising a march in
Washington, May, 1913 "Rain or Shine."

Read about using public relations and consumer goods for the cause in Margaret Mary Finnegan's Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women (Columbia University Press 1999.) See a preview here:

Here's a mid-20th-century pieced and appliqued parasol---
a different pattern, but just as cute.
Inspiration, perhaps.

Learn more about the Missouri parasol brigades in the "Fighting for Rights Set" photos from the Missouri History Museum here

Mary Ellen appliqued hers.


  1. Hallo, what a nice Block, and ideer. Thank you for the Instruktion.
    Creadive regards Marika

  2. I used freezer paper - pressing the seams to the glossy side. Hope the how-to pictures are helpful. Happy stitching, everyone!

    1. P.S. Be sure to use a hot DRY iron for pressing fabric to freezer paper (no steam).


  3. Love this block because I love umbrellas. Thanks for the instructions.

  4. I love this - am reading a book called The Parasol Protectorate and happened upon this block. Serendipity?

  5. Wonderful block! Thank you!

  6. I happened upon this video on youtube - Horrible Histories The Suffragette's Song.
    There's others out there too.
    I'm really enjoying this BOW - Thanks for doing this!

  7. Downton Abbey's most recent episode had a women's vote subplot where it appears Edith is going to write for the newspaper about this cause, much to her family's dismay. Looking forward to seeing how that story line goes.

  8. I have been hunting for years for a picture of the appliqued parasol that you have here. My grandmother gave me one that she had when she was young. It finally fell apart and I have searched for a picture to make another one. Thank you, I am so excited to start working on this project.

  9. Hi, nice blog love the old photos, umbrella patterns and instructions.

    Sagas silver rings