Hearts and Hands

A social history of 19th century women and quilts
Year Released
Film Length(s)
60 mins
Remote video URL


The film chronicles the lives of ordinary women as well as individuals such as Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Willard and Abigail Scott Duniway through the great 19th century events: industrialization, abolition, the Civil War, westward movement, temperance and suffrage. For nineteenth century women, quilts were the podium, the pulpit and the judges' gavel, which their society denied them. Their quilts speak the language of abolition, patriotism, politics, social justice and westward expansion.

Featured review

...Important as well as entertaining for all those who want to understand nineteenth-century American history.
Dr. Glenna Mathews Historian
University of California, Irvine


A beautifully crafted film. It explores women's history, U.S. social history, folk art, and music, and is a glorious memorial to our persevering foremothers. An essential purchase for public libraries.
Margaret Wyatt AV Librarian
San Francisco Public Library
One of the most interesting films I've seen in recent years. Beautifully structured--a new form for telling history.
William Sloan Film Librarian
Museum of Modern Art, New York
A quality production for public libraries, colleges and universities. Our patrons loved Quilts in Women's Lives and now we're proud to offer them Hearts and Hands.
Sandra Koontz Director
State AV Center, Kansas
Absorbing and professionally executed, this sweeping documentary examines the role of women in shaping America from the days of emerging industrialization to westward expansion. Exquisite...painstakingly crafted...for schools, libraries and museums.
An absolutely expert outing, made with quality and a kind of subtle ferocity
Times Picayune
New Orleans, LA
Successfully challenging the notion that nineteenth century quilts were merely functional, occasionally artful, but certainly never part of the historical record, the film demonstrates that for nineteenth century women, quilts were the podium, the pulpit, the judges' gavel which their society denied them. Their quilts speak the language of abolition, patriotism, politics, social justice, westward expansion. They incorporate fragments of the personal into explorations of nineteenth century culture. Hearts and Hands facilitated discussion of the impact of gender, race, and class on official history and the difficulties historians face in retrieving the histories of previously marginalized groups. The film's appropriation of archival materials--photographs, quotations from journals and letters, and the quilts themselves--provided the substance necessary to flesh out the theoretical abstractions of female communication, historiography, and historical documentary. I highly recommend the film for use in any college course on American History, Women's Studies, or documentary film theory.
Judith Lancioni
Rowan University, School of Communication
Double-Edged Power: Historical Records of Gender and Race All's well in white male 19th century America: the women are happy and content the darkies are laughing and carefree. But all is not so well from the viewpoint of those two oppressed segments of society. The oppression of women and Black Americans in the 19th century and popular expressions of that oppression by means of needlework and caricatures, respectively, were imposed on them from within and without, and yet those same forms often became creative outlets. Emphasizing quilts as a means of revealing the social history of women, Pat Ferrero's Hearts and Hands eloquently presents "fragments of time," illustrated by needlework, which tell a story of the ultimate triumph of women during a century from which we usually hear few female voices. This same century gave rise to the caricatures of Black Americans that persist in contemporary American popular culture. In Ethnic Notions, Marlon Riggs hits us with the images whites created for Blacks and which Blacks were forced to recreated to gain employment in vaudeville, theatre, and film. Hearts and Hands is uplifting; Ethnic Notions is sobering. Both films should be seen and used by folklorists, popular culture specialists, historians, sociologists, and race and gender scholars. Crafted with great care and sensitivity, these films are tributes to the power of the visual image...For every quilter, each quilt becomes a story. For Ferrero, these quilts are texts, and needles the pens, that create a pattern of historical fragments carefully gathered and arranged to reveal an aesthetic, double-edged picture of women's power in the 19th century.
California Folklore Society
Western Folklore

Awards and Screenings

PBS, American Experience
Blue Ribbon, American Film and Video Festival
Crystal Apple, National Educational Film and Video Festival
Best Fine Arts, San Francisco Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival

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