Quilts and quiltmaking have been closely connected to the religious identities of Norwegian-American women in the Midwest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and to the churches themselves.
The Lutheran Church was an important institution, socially as well as religiously, for many Norwegian-American families.
Through Kvindeforening, or Ladies Aid, women learned to make quilts, practiced English, built and maintained social relationships, and sold quilts and textiles to fund local, national, and global projects.
Some quilts made by devout Norwegian Americans show evidence of faith in imagery and language with embroidered scenes from the Bible and Bible verses in Norwegian.
The Norwegian language persisted longest when it came to matters of faith. Many quiltmakers attended a church that conducted services in their native language and their daughters often grew up worshiping (reading, speaking, and singing) in Norwegian.
Laurann Gilbertson holds a BA in Anthropology and an MS in Textiles & Clothing, both from Iowa State University. She was Textile Curator at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, for 19 years and is now the Chief Curator there. Among her duties are overseeing the collection of more than 30,000 artifacts, creating exhibitions, and leading Textile Study Tours to Norway.