Some of the 650 hooked rugs made as part of the Maine Sea Coast Mission program in the ‘20s and ‘30s will be on display at Birch Bay Retirement Village in Hulls Cove on May 12 and 13. PHOTO COURTESY OF BIRCH BAY VILLAGE

View hooked rugs, history at open house

BAR HARBOR — Birch Bay Retirement Village will hold an open house at which hooked rugs from the Maine Sea Coast Mission collection can be viewed on Thursday, May 12, and Friday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The hooked rugs in this exhibit are some of the 650 rugs made by fishermen’s wives as part of the Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rug Program in the 1920s and 1930s. Alice M. Peasley, assistant missionary, taught women (and at least one man) how to hook rugs. She sold their rugs and put much needed money into their pockets.

This little-known chapter in Maine’s history speaks to the tough, tenacious men and women who eked out a living on Maine’s remote islands and coast. 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, Peasley decided to create a hooked-rug program to increase the family income. She had no formal training in rug hooking or rug design, though she cherished memories of making rugs with her grandmother.

Over several years, Peasley’s philosophy evolved so that more emphasis was placed on creativity. Peasley 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.”

The event is free and open to the public. Judith Burger-Gossart, author of “Sadie’s Winter Dream, Fishermen’s Wives and Maine Sea Coast Mission Hooked Rugs, 1923-1938,” will be available to talk about the collection and answer questions. Birch Bay Village is located at 25 Village Inn Road in Hulls Cove. Call Sharon Linscott at 288-8014.


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