Brickley Family Legacy Quilt

To mark Women’s History Month, we are sharing this quilt from the MSU Museum collections. The LeMoyne Star quilt was made by Rebecca Brickley in 1866 while enroute to Michigan from New York. The story of the quilt and its maker recalls a months-long journey in a horse-drawn wagon by a family of migrants to Michigan. Brickley showed creativity and coping strategies in the face of illness. Her mission to leave a gift for her son shows the strength of a mother’s love and a desire to leave a legacy object. The story reveals the special meaning that handmade objects, and in particular quilts, can hold in people’s lives.

Rebecca Brickley's Story

The donor, William J. Brickley, provided this story about the prized quilt:

This quilt was made by my great-grandmother Rebecca Brickley, wife of Jacob Brickley, who died of cancer of the breast October 18, 1866, at the age of 46 years, 6 mos. and 15 days. In 1865 my great-grandmother discovered that she had cancer of the breast. She told the family, "You all want to go to Michigan, so we will go this year so I won't be left behind."

In the fall of 1865 they had harvested the crops and sold the farm in Niagara County, New York. Then they started for Michigan with their possessions in wagons and with cows tied behind the wagons. They left Lockport, New York, in the late fall and travelled all winter to reach Ionia, Michigan, in the spring of 1866. Great-grandmother made the quilt for my grandfather while she was dying. Grandfather was very choice of this quilt and refused to have it used. His daughter and then I have respected his wishes, and the quilt has not been used. That is why it is 120 years old and in original condition.

Click here to learn more about this quilt

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Since the early 1980s, Michigan State University Museum has become a world-class center of quilt-related scholarship and hosts unique and important collections of quilts and quilt-related materials which support the documentation, interpretation, presentation, and conservation of the quiltmaking traditions in Michigan, the Great Lakes region, South Africa, and Southwest China as well as African American and North American indigenous quilt history. The quilt collection numbers more than 1000 and includes historical and contemporary quilted and patchwork textiles from around the world, including China, Thailand, Laos, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Zimbabwe and from recent immigrants to the United States.

These collections have been built through groundbreaking research initiatives, conducted with deep community engagement and broad academic partnerships, with a special focus on digital preservation and access, social justice and human rights, health and well-being, Hmong, African Americans, and Native Americans.

Quilt with star pattern in seven rows of six stars with border
Close up of quilt with star pattern with border
Black and white photo of Rebecca Brinkley and her husband Jacob
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