Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting Started

I've been running the Colonial Spinning Bee at the "Old Chelmsford" Garrison House in Chelmsford, MA for the past 8 years or is it 9 years... When I started it I was really hoping that by now it would be this really big and anticipated event with lots of spinners and vendors. The whole idea started more than 30 years ago when I first heard of the "spinning bee's" that were held in colonial New England at which "huge" numbers of women gathered to spin and make their policial statement against the importing good from England. I tried to organize one at the National Park in Concord one year but couldn't get enough re-enactors who could spin and had period correct wheels so the "bee" had to wait 25 years. When I tried again I thought I'd make it an event that would welcome spinners from both modern and historic backgrounds. In the beginning I got mostly 18th century re-enactors, the year after that the numbers were more balanced and since then it has been mostly modern spinners. Actually, the last few years it has been only a few modern spinners. Several things happened, to bring in spinners you need to have vendors and once a vendor gets known they don't do small events like mine-which is understandable. Another problem has been rain, it has rained 3 of the past 4 years, 4 of 4 if you count the sprinkles for the last hour of the event last year. There is also the fact that it is the weekend between the NH and MA Sheep and Wool Fests. This worked to it's advantage some years and against it others. Being a glutton for punishment I'm trying again this year, May 17

The concept is a good one and the historical significance in a year of cut backs is appropriate. So, I figured I'd start a blog to keep up the interest and share some of the information I've found out about what were really called "Spinning Matches" and were made up of about 20 girls and the occasional older woman.

Here is a poem from 1750

The Loom, the Comb, the Spinning Wheel, Would much promote this
Country's Weal If we could wear more our own Woollen:
We should have kept our Coin and Bullion.
For sending of the Coin away,
Has made all Sorts of Trade decay;
How shall poor Tenants pay their Rent?
Now all the Coin away is sent.
How shall Folks live and Taxes pay,
When all the Money's sent away;
Let Merchants then join Hand in Hand, To bring in Money to our Land.
But if this Counsel they dispise,
And their own Interest only prize
They will bring Ruin on this Land;
As quickly all will understand.
For now the Money is so gone,
That there is little to be done.
And more and more trade will decay,
As all will feel from Day to Day.
O that a way they would find out,
To make this Trade to face about;
And bring the Money here again!
But I'm afraid I speak in vain.
Therefore I now conclude and say,
Pray let 'em send no more away;
But keep in that which does come in,
And never send it out again.

The Boston Gazette, or Weekly Journal
issue 1568
April 3, 1750