Women’s Work

Posted by on Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

It took me far too long to write about this book.  Barber is the most engaging of fiber-art historians, hands down.  The discipline has received far too little attention for far too many years, and it is wonderful to see so well respected a scholar attack, and love, the subject.  She is a weaver and general fiber-artist as well as a linguist and archaeologist.  That combination of disciplines lends her rare insight.  She can spot bad research miles away and can also admit when she makes mistakes in her own experimental archaeology projects.  That is rare. 

I first came across Barber because of her work on P.V. Glob’s The Bog People, one of my favorites.  I read this book slowly because I was loathe to finish it, but decided I could wrap things up once I had a copy of When They Severed Earth from Sky in my hot little hands.   Page after page, I found answers to questions that had been percolating in my head for years, decent illustrations of woven goods, pottery, and tools, and an open celebration of women’s arts through history. 

In short, string-skirts are holy, spinning is truly revolutionary in every sense, sheep are our friends, women who make textiles rock, and this is a great book.  Just go buy it and read it yourself–I don’t want to give away any of the surprises.

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