BAR HARBOR — Nationally recognized magazine writer Judith Burger-Gossart will speak at the Jesup Memorial Library on Friday, July 17, at 7 p.m. about her recently released book, “Sadie’s Winter Dream, Fishermen’s Wives and Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rugs, 1923-1938.” During the month of July, the Jesup also will host an exhibit of 10 Maine Sea Coast Mission hooked rugs.
“Sadie’s Winter Dream” tells the story of how Alice Moore Peasley changed women’s lives all along the Maine coast. Under the auspices of the mission, she taught women how to hook rugs, sold their rugs and put much needed money into their pockets. In addition, she taught the women to be creative, imaginative and playful. This little known chapter of Maine history speaks to the tough, tenacious men and women who eked out a living on the Maine’s islands and coast in the early 1900s.
Maine author Carl Little has noted, “Thanks to Judith Burger-Gossart’s outstanding research, an intriguing piece of down east Maine history has been brought to light. This book is about rugs, yes, but it is also a remarkable story of community, art and hard living—and a determined woman named Alice M. Peasley.”
The hooked rug program began in the 1920s. There was little jazz in Down East Maine, particularly for fishermen and their families. For them, work was backbreaking, and it was hard to make ends meet, even during the best of times. After six years of being employed by the mission as an assistant missionary, Peasley came up with the idea of a hooked rug program to increase the family income. Born in Rockland in 1880, Peasley was raised in a family of modest means. Education was important to her, and she went on to become a teacher, minister, nurse, and notary public. She had no formal training in rug hooking, though she had cherished memories of making rugs with her grandmother. She described herself as “simply a New England woman who loves hooked rugs.”
Over several years, Peasley’s philosophy evolved so that more emphasis was placed on creativity. She strove for individual expression and playfulness, elements that were scarce in the women’s difficult lives. In finding creative expression, the women were changed forever. As one woman noted, “I never thought I would live to see the day when I could do something that somebody would really want and value.” Peasley said, “The output from this department will always be small because of the nature of the work. Quantity has never been an end. Each rug receives the care needed to make it an individual and precious thing.”
Burger-Gossart graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1965, majoring in American studies. She was a social worker for 25 years, became an antique dealer in 1996, has curated numerous exhibits and has written many magazine articles. “Sadie’s Winter Dream” is her first book. She lives in Salisbury Cove with her husband.