Sunday, February 12, 2006

History Needs Our Help

My daughter has been working on a school project in tracing her heritage.  We found out that one of her Great Grandmothers arrived at Ellis Island from Italy in 1919 on the SS Caserta (a ship that was used during WWI; the crew was decorated with the Victory Medal) -- it was a 20-day voyage to America and she arrived with just five dollars in her pocket.  She became a citizen of the United States within a year of arriving, and together with her husband, ran a successful grocery store that generously aided those in need during the Great Depression.   As we dive further into the details of her life it's apparent that there is a great need to preserve our history. 

So when I heard that
The Musings Lace School in Ireland is in dire need of our help to be saved, I opted to act by spreading the word and by pledging $100US to the cause!  "The Muings Lace School played an enduring and pivotal role in the economic history of the community throughout the harshest of times and well into the affluent 1990s," said Helen Moreau, who is spearheading the campaign to save the school -- who is looking to preserve it's history.

Today, crochet is still the rage on the fashion runways ... from trims to accessories.  (Designer Anna Sui keeps her "whimsical touches with Edwardian taffeta ruffles, empire line dresses and crochet tunics, but toughened them with shiny black leather.."  and where "lace motifs have been converted into girlie necklace[s with] it's lower edge trimmed with a few matching beads.")  But where would all this fashion be if it where not for the ability to look to the past and appreciate it's beauty,and it's place in history? 

If we look back at the early 1850s, Ireland was starving.  It was the time of the "Great Potato Famine" -- a time when over a million people died of starvation because the potato crops were covered with unexplained black rot.  When the crops failed, livelihood failed.  Food was scarce and very expensive!  "In the past lace making income was often the only source of income in a house. One woman who signed the petition told me that her mother, who had 14 children, used to stay up until 2.00am every night making intricate lace gloves. It was the only way to bring in some money," Helen states.

Fortunately at that same time lace was hot! Hot! Hot!  It was THE accessory to wear!  The more you wore, the more you declared how wealthy you were.  And this display of wealth helped schools open across Ireland ... providing the impovered starving Irish families with desperately needed income for a great number of years.

In 1919 The Muings Lace School was opened, and stayed open until 1999.  "I really feel very strongly about preserving this building. The women of this area should be recognized for the huge contribution they made in the past through their talented work at Muings Lace School.  These women should not be forgotten," Helen said.  And I agree!

The proposal is to have the Musing Lace School be restored and turned into a Heritage Centre/Folk Museum to preserve its history, to host lectures on traditional crafts, to exhibit Irish crochet lace, hand knitting and memorabilia from the school.

They're looking for our help!  Volunteers, donations, memories and such.  To get involved send an email to

Something to think about:  It took me 75 hours to create my Irish Lace Flower Basket pictured on the right.  Now imagine how many hours it took to crochet the jacket pictured above on the left. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yikes.. careful Dee, genealogy research can be just as addicting as crochet.  It's also quite fascinating and history becomes "real" as you learn the reasons why people do certain things.