By Christopher Gavin Daily News Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2017 at 9:51 PM Updated Jul 19, 2017 at 9:51 PM
HOPEDALE – With the help of local volunteers, Linda Hixon is hoping to stitch together Hopedale history as
it was documented by some of the town’s most progressive residents.
Together they will create perhaps a group a bit reminiscent of the one they intend to research: the Hopedale
In its heyday, the sewing circle was a place for discussion, volunteering and even a party or two for women
in town over the course of 150 years, according to Hixon, formerly of Hopedale and now an adjunct history
professor at Worcester State University.
The finer details of the club’s regular meetings, from 1848 through 1862 and 1881 up until 1993 have been
preserved thanks to some 35 books journaling each one.
“I don’t know how many other New England towns have this breadth of women’s history,” Hixon said, her
excitement evident. “I don’t think there’s many.”
And she is looking to make sure that history is here to stay.
Before a room of about a dozen attendees, Hixon made her pitch for volunteers at the Bancroft Memorial
Library Wednesday night for a project that seeks to transcribe the journals and deeply delve into the lives of
the women behind the cursive. From genealogists to transcribers and researchers, all will be needed to
make it work, she said.
“You can be the first eyes on these in a hundred years,” Hixon said.
She aims for the effort to culminate in a book all about the women, documenting a pocket of local history –
from the advocates of women’s rights to the fight to abolish slavery - that permeated out of Hopedale and
eventually into the national mainstream, often ahead of its time.
According to Hixon, who wrote her thesis on the subject, the sewing club first picked up in churches, working
to help raise money through selling the goods they sowed to take care of those who needed help in town.
Oftentimes that money would go to the latest progressive cause of the day, including the abolition
movement of the mid-1800s.
Some of the circle members attended the first national women’s rights convention in Worcester in 1850,
prominently, radically and happily displaying their bloomers in public.
“Hopedale was amazingly progressive, which is something we don’t know now,” Hixon said. “And these
women were out there.”
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