Winifred Byrd

Winifred Byrd was born in 1925 in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she lived until she married. Her mother, who had been trained as a teacher but could not find a school that would hire an African American woman, supported the family as a custodian after her husband was incapacitated by a brain tumor. Mrs. Byrd received a scholarship to Colorado College and worked as a medical technician for thirty years. We met at her daughter's home in New Jersey on May 24, 2001. In this excerpt Mrs. Byrd shares memories of how her family dressed well on a limited budget.

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Jane Dunn

Jane Dunn was born in Orange, New Jersey in 1913 and grew up in New Brunswick and Highland Park, New Jersey. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, once a vaudeville star, directed physical education at the Y.M.C.A. She worked as a legal secretary for most of the 1930s before she married and raised two sons. We spoke on the telephone on May 2, 2001. Here Mrs. Dunn recalls the sewing talents of her mother and aunt.

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Margorie Durand

Margorie Durand was born in 1923 in Worden, Montana and was raised along with eight siblings on Montana farms with no indoor running water or electricity. Her family first owned a home but lost it after a devastating hailstorm and thereafter rented farms. After finishing Normal School Mrs. Durand taught math before learning to fly an airplane in hopes of joining the WACS during the Second World War. She later worked for the Navy in Seattle and for TWA. We spoke on the telephone on April 12, 2001. In this excerpt Mrs. Durand discusses how women would use patterns creatively and sew from high quality materials.

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Florence Epstein

Florence Epstein was born in Rochester, New York in 1912 to Jewish immigrants from near Bialystock, in an area that changed hands between Russia and Poland. Her father taught her to use a treadle sewing machine. After she married she helped run her husband's dry cleaning business. We spoke on the telephone on May 3, 2001. In the first excerpt Mrs. Epstein discusses how she began to be interested in sewing and used patterns. In the second she recalls how she received help from a neighbor with professional sewing skills.

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Patricia Gordon

Patricia Gordon (no relation to the author) was born in 1919. When her father died when she was about twelve she, her mother, and her two sisters moved from Ohio to New Hampshire. She later studied at Smith College and received a Master's in Teaching from Harvard. While Mrs. Gordon claims she was never a natural at sewing, it was a "good thing" to have learned. We spoke at her home in Wallingford, Connecticut on May 7, 2001. Here Mrs. Gordon describes how her mother, a trained home economist, worked for a publicly supported program during the Depression.

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Marian Goodman

Born in 1918, Marian Goodman grew up in Montana and South Dakota. As a young child she lived on an isolated forest station and later moved to town so she could attend school. She learned to sew very young. She recalled that during the Depression she couldn't afford new clothes, and during World War Two she couldn't find new clothes. After her husband retired she ran a small home business doing clothing alterations. She joined the conversation with Patricia Gordon. Here she recalls her distaste for her high school sewing classes.

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Patricia Gordon and Marian Goodman

Later in the conversation Patricia Gordon offered an opinion as to why girls were taught to sew at a young age.

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Edith Kurtz

Edith Kurtz was born in Illinois in 1904. She and two brothers grew up on farms in Illinois and Michigan; her father was what she called a "general farmer" and her mother ran the household. Mrs. Kurtz taught school, including high school math, before she married. During the Second World War she taught math to men who required more training before they became officers. We met in her room at Kendal at Oberlin, an assisted living facility, in Oberlin, Ohio on May 24, 2001. Here Mrs. Kurtz discusses how her mother skillfully re-modeled clothing.

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Helen Schwimmer

Helen Schwimmer grew up in Toledo, Ohio where she was born in 1908. As a girl the family was hard hit by the Depression. She trained to be a nurse and medical missionary but became ill, and met her future husband while recuperating. Mrs. Schwimmer raised ten children in Michigan. We met at her home in Oberlin, Ohio on May 25, 2001. In this excerpt Mrs. Schwimmer recalls her frustration with her mother's exacting standards and reluctance to let her use the sewing machine.

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