Kelsey Salvesen

Ph.D. Candidate


Daniel Richter (Primary Advisor)

Sarah Barringer Gordon 

Kathleen Brown

Dissertation: "The Word Became Thread And Was Stitched Among Us: Gender, Empire, and Religion in Early North America"

My project insists upon the symbolic and commercial import of “women’s crafts” in early North America and the centrality of feminine material culture, especially needlework, to understanding broader societal threads.

 I argue for the of the necessity of “reading” textiles and needlecraft productions for information about how women and girls expressed their views and in turn fashioned and were shaped by their contexts. To the extent possible, I focus on the women’s own views, all while acknowledging that accessing the agency of the stitcher can be a difficult task. Indeed, it is often easier to read the ideals projected upon the stitchers--by schoolteachers, parents, and other authority figures—than it is to read the views of the stitchers themselves. Much as with written texts, it becomes necessary to read between the lines of cloth. 

 Moreover, what I call feminine material culture involved both the material goods—the stitched items and textiles—produced by women and girls in early North America, as well as the cultural knowledge that informed these productions and made them possible. I trace the networks of exchange that facilitated the transfer not only of the raw materials and technical expertise necessary to instruct girls in needlecraft, but also allowed for the circulation of ideas and ideals about who should craft what, what kind of content was appropriate for girls/women to engage with in their stitchwork, and how what was appropriate varied by race, location, and religious affiliation.





B.A. French and International Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2011)

M.A. History, University of Pennsylvania (2014)

Research Interests

Gender, race, and religion in early North America; feminine material culture; stitched texts; American religious history; the French colonization of North America; missionaries and Amerindian Christians; Catholic nuns and empire; literacies.