Lou Tate’s field work on weaving in Bowling Green
In 1935, Louisa Tate Bousman (1906-1979) was just beginning her career as a teacher, writer, collector and authority on the folk arts of weaving, spinning and dyeing. Within the next two years, she would present exhibits of Kentucky handweaving at New York’s Folk Arts Center and Louisville’s Speed Art Museum.
But “Lou Tate,” as she was known professionally, had already taken a great interest in documenting the rich tradition of weaving in her home town of Bowling Green. She contacted Mary Taylor Leiper at WKU’s Special Collections Library, who offered to show her the museum’s collection and put her in touch with local owners of significant handwoven textiles. Tate proposed that the results of her investigations be used to plan an exhibit at the museum, which she promised would be “intensely interesting.”
Tate summarized the results of her field work and gave a copy to the Kentucky Library & Museum. Although she made clear that her paper, “Handwoven Textiles,” had only scratched the surface of Bowling Green’s treasury of coverlets, counterpanes, shawls and quilts, she included not only photos of her discoveries but actual scraps of weaving – three-dimensional examples that brought to life the color combinations and textures lovingly created by weavers whose work had survived for generations, even though their names were often lost to history.
A finding aid for Lou Tate’s paper can be downloaded by clicking here, and a finding aid for her associated correspondence with Mary Leiper can be downloaded by clicking here. For more collections on weaving and folk art, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.
Author George Britt obeys a request to donate to the Kentucky Library
Since it opened in the 1930s, WKU’s Special Collections Library (formerly the Kentucky Library) has drawn inquiries about its collections from authors, historians, collectors and genealogists near and far. Before Google searches, digital text or e-mail, library staff members Elizabeth Coombs, Mary Leiper Moore and director Julia Neal corresponded with both scholars and amateurs seeking to research their books and articles, locate a rare publication, or fill a gap in family genealogy. In their replies, the librarians never passed up the opportunity to obtain a copy of the author’s latest work or a pledge to donate his/her personal papers.
A collection of this correspondence, now available at the Special Collections Library, dates from the 1930s to the 1970s and includes letters from authors such as Thomas D. Clark, Anne Pence Davis, Janice Holt Giles, Jesse Stuart and Joy Bale.
Sometimes the authors are interested merely in locating an elusive source; at other times, they write at greater length about their work and that of others. “At present I am spending most of my time in collecting old drafts and photographing old coverlets,” wrote Kentucky master weaver Louisa Tate Bousman (“Lou Tate”). “Do you have in your collection of Kentuckiana any manuscript account book or diary of some planter or farmer in which is enumerated the different expenditures in connection with the slaves?” asked J. Winston Coleman, Jr. Responding to a request for her papers, Joy Bale admitted that she never kept drafts of her poems because “I am so glad when a poem of mine finally reaches what I consider MY best that I joyously tear up all beginnings.” Writing from the University of Kentucky, James Thomas Cotton Noe asked for guidance in “the task of building a Kentucky collection for our library.”
A finding aid for the Authors Correspondence Collection can be downloaded here. For other resources on authors in Kentucky and elsewhere, search TopScholar and KenCat.