The Mother’s Day Project

War is Personal

The Mother’s Day Project Evolves

Although the Mother’s Day Project began a little over a year ago, I think of Mother’s Day as an anniversary marker for the journey that began in the spring of 2007.

It was a simple idea.  We would, all of us, join together to honor the mothers, daughters, wives and lovers – the female members of the Coalition forces who had died in service to their country while fighting in Iraq.  We would stitch their names onto swatches of muslin, and I would complete the process by fashioning a simple tote bag from the stitched names to circulate amongst ourselves as a reminder of the ongoing conflict and the many thousands of dead men, women and children whose names are either unknown or too numerous to fit onto a portable memorial like a tote.

But, something happened along the way.  Many, if not most artistic concepts evolve and change over time.  Different paths make their presence known.  The light shifts, illuminating new possibilities.  As someone who is most accustomed to working alone, I seldom take note of these changes in direction.  They are part of the artistic process.  A given.

However, with so many individuals participating in The Mother’s Day Project (nearly 200 of you!) the weight of responsibility to stay true to my original concept for this project is something I have taken quite seriously.  I am therefore more than a bit nervous about announcing some changes, but also excited at some new possibilities and pathways that have evolved from the original idea.


The final phase of The Mother’s Day Project will not be a tote bag that circulates among the contributing stitchers.  The construction of the first complete panel of embroidered names has become a work of collage, layers of fabric and hand-applied beading and embroidery that is simply not well-suited to use as any type of bag.  It’s too fragile, too physically heavy and, most importantly . . .

It’s too weighted with emotional significance to release into the world with no guaranty that each home it entered would provide the protection it deserves for the sacred object it has become.  Sacred, because of all of your individual contributions that are now joined together into a whole.

I’ve come to realize (perhaps more slowly than I should have) that this project – in its entirety – has taken on the weight of a memorial with a capital “M.”  It simply would not be fair to the memory of those whose names we’ve stitched, nor to those of you who have contributed to the project to allow the work to be lost in the mail or destroyed or damaged by accident or neglect.  Perhaps it was idiotic on my part, but I did not foresee the project coming together in this way, with this amount of significance.

Your Help is Needed

The question now becomes, how to alter this final phase of the project and still honor the spirit of the original idea?  It is imperative to me that the final work, the collaborative end point of this journey be placed in a publicly accessible site such as a museum, or a traveling exhibit.

Many of you are artists yourselves.  Others have ties to various branches of the military.  All of you have invested energy and emotion in this project.  I am asking you to give some thought to places in your community, or exhibitions and museums you have knowledge of where this finished project might find a permanent home.  Write to me.  Give me a contact name if you have one.  I will do the follow-up.

I would also like to hear from you about other ideas for carrying on the original concept.  Should commercially produced canvas tote bags be imprinted with photos of the finished project and provided to each of the stitchers?  Would you prefer a photo of the name you stitched as a personal memento?

Please let me know your thoughts.

And, today, as you celebrate Mother’s Day with your children, your mother and all the women who have played a significant role in your life, I know you will be joining me in remembering everyone who has lost someone in the Iraq War.  Hold them in your hearts and continue to work for peace.



  Julie wrote @

Wouldn’t it be great if it could be a traveling project, like the Names Project AIDS Quilt? I’m not sure about the logistics of that, but it could be a great tool for getting people talking about the impact of war, especially on women.

I like the idea of the tote bags with a picture of the finished tote. Even though you’ve posted a few images, I can’t quite picture what the complete piece looks like.

There are probably a lot of other good ideas out there…I will keep thinking, too!

  beadslut wrote @

You might contact the people involved with the beadquilt?
See what they went through and did?

Bead and Button Show is in Milwaukee, I suspect they might be interested in displaying next month if you’re close.

  threadingwater wrote @

Thanks, Julie. Your comment regarding the photos posted so far is one of my concerns. I am working with a professional photographer and I’m making every effort to obtain better, and more pictures for viewing so that you can get a better sense of the whole. That is a new feature that will definitely be coming to this website.

  Deb W. wrote @

It seems appropriate to be located (eventually) in the Smithsonian, as that’s what I know to be the country’s memorial museum. Perhaps it should travel, and add names, but in the end, be placed along side other mementos of American history, near the Vietnam Memorial amidst others.

Deborah Weber

  cheeseheadwithsticks wrote @

You have done such a beatiful job! It is more than I imagined it would be.

While a bit of me is sad that I won’t be able to run around showing it to everyone – I agree that it is best if it’s put on display in a more public way. None of us can guarantee that someone doesn’t walk by and spill their coffee on it or something else.

I don’t have any ideas for display unfortunately. I think a picture of the area where my name is would be lovely.

[…] must mention the Mother’s Day Project. I got involved with this project a year ago to honor the female soldiers – often mothers […]

  PJ Kemp wrote @

Paducah, KY (my home) has a National display of homemade quilts. People (quilters, mostly women) converge on Paducah from all over the country for 3 or 4 days in the spring (about two weeks ago) There are prizes for different categories. Paducah also has a quilt museum. I am not a quilter but I will get you the info if you want it. It is unbelievable how many women come to this event. Some have to stay miles away because the city and surrounding area is packed. These quilts are works of art., different sizes, etc. and protected. Displaying your work during the quilters week would be very safe and appreciated.

  moiraeknittoo wrote @

I’d agree with the idea of a quilt. More appropriate for a display, perhaps a little less likely to go walkabout?

  Tanya wrote @

I was a little concerned about something so intimate travelling from one place to the next. I sent my handknit monkey on travels around the world and while in no way was she as meaningful as this project, I was deeply concerned about how she might have been treated while out of my sight (I’m happy to say that she was returned in just as good a shape as she left me).

I love the idea of an art piece and am looking forward to seeing more pictures of the finished project. It’s stunning so far.

BTW, I finally got the nerve to post about Sgt. Melissa Valles and my role in the Mother’s Day project. Best wishes…


  Sharon Rose wrote @

I agree wholeheartedly. Now that you mention it, the idea of someone smoking near it or allowing a dog to chew on it would be a disaster. I vote for the quilt idea, either traveling or on permanent memorial display. The VA may be a good resource for you.

Thanks again for undertaking such a beautiful and important project! I’m so glad I could contribute!

  Susan wrote @

If you are working with a professional photographer, would it be possible to have posters or other large prints of the finished product made? I love the idea of being able to carry the tote bag around and use it as a talking point, but I also like the idea of being able to frame a photo/poster and hang it on the wall at my home or office.

  ellen kelley wrote @

I am in awe of the beauty of these pieces. I agree that these need to be protected..and shared “safely” and respectfully. I don’t have any helpful suggestions, but know that a good solution will be found. I love the idea of a traveling project..and eventually a safe place where it can be permanently displayed.

  Terri wrote @

I would LOVE to see it hanging somewhere like the Oval Office, where W would have to look at it every single freaking day. (Assuming he ever goes in there.) Or maybe in the Senate chambers, where our law makers have to see all those names every day?

On a more practical note, I wonder if the Smithsonian might be interested? I know they have an entire section devoted to fiber arts. And I think more people–from all over the world–would see it there than any other single place I can think of. Maybe send it around to Universities for display on its way to D.C.? And I love the idea of posters, btw.

  Leslie wrote @

I don’t know how many of you still have this project on your blog readers, but…

Tonight, July 23, 2008, Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now”, broadcast on Link TV, interviewed Dr. & Mrs. Johnson, parents of LaVena Johnson. I had the honor of embroidering LaVena’s name so this really struck home with me. Here is a link if you would care to read the interview:

When I received her name, more than a year ago, I researched LaVena and have been praying for the peace of her soul and the apprehension of her killers since. It may never happen (especially with our current political situation – they all stink) but at least it’s out in the public eye.

Peace and love to you all.
LeslieEileen on Ravelry

  Susan wrote @

I have a couple of suggestions for display — how about the New England Quilt Museum or the Museum of American Textile History, both located in Lowell, Massachusetts?

  eRobin wrote @

I like the Lowell, MA idea. In addition to the textile angle, Lowell has a rich history of women’s rights that would dovetail well with the project.

  knittingnurse wrote @

I have visited the Arlington National Cemetary and there is a museum there that is SPECIFICALLY dedicated to women in the military. I can’t imagine a better permanent location for this project than that museum. I wonder if any of the ladies whose name we have stitched are actually at rest there???

  Michael E. McClung wrote @

Our daughter, Major Megan M. McClung, is named on your quilt and she is buried at Arlington. I think that the Women’s Memorial at Arlington would be a perfect place for such a quilt. If a decision has not been made as to the placement, I would be happy to provide you some contact information at the Women’s Memorial.

Mike and Re McClung

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: