Weaving New Worlds

Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry

By Sarah H. Hill

Awards & Distinctions

Co-winner of the 1998 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association of Women Historians

A 1997 Choice Outstanding Academic Book

In this innovative study, Sarah Hill illuminates the history of Southeastern Cherokee women by examining changes in their basketry. Based in tradition and made from locally gathered materials, baskets evoke the lives and landscapes of their makers. Indeed, as Weaving New Worlds reveals, the stories of Cherokee baskets and the women who weave them are intertwined and inseparable. Incorporating written, woven, and spoken records, Hill demonstrates that changes in Cherokee basketry signal important transformations in Cherokee culture. Over the course of three centuries, Cherokees developed four major basketry traditions, each based on a different material--rivercane, white oak, honeysuckle, and maple. Hill explores how the addition of each new material occurred in the context of lived experience, ecological processes, social conditions, economic circumstances, and historical eras. Incorporating insights from written sources, interviews with contemporary Cherokee weavers, and a close examination of the baskets themselves, she presents Cherokee women as shapers and subjects of change. Even in the face of cultural assault and environmental loss, she argues, Cherokee women have continued to take what they have to make what they need, literally and metaphorically weaving new worlds from old.

About the Author

Sarah H. Hill is an independent scholar who lives in Atlanta. A native of Georgia, she received her Ph.D. in American studies from Emory University.


An extensively researched and meticulously documented examination of the role of women in the history of these persistent occupants of the Southern Appalachians. . . . Hills metaphorical examination of womens roles through the various changes reflected in their basketry is masterful.
--National Womens Studies Association Journal

In this groundbreaking and innovative study, Hill herself engages in complex weaving, entwining the threads of archival research, oral history, and the study of material culture to create an illuminating picture of the lives of southeastern Cherokee women.Journal of Appalachian Studies

A book large and strong enough to hold most of Cherokee history and culture.NC Folklore Journal

Sarah Hill has woven a book that is large and strong enough to hold most of Cherokee history and culture . . . [and] shows us the important part which Cherokee women and their baskets have played and continue to play in that process.NC Folklore Journal

By examining, in detail, the most basic manufacture of Cherokee women, Hill manages to illuminate not only Cherokee womens history but that of the entire nation, from the dawn of the Cherokee world until the present day.American Historical Review Thoroughly researched, well-written, well-documented, and sympathetically presented, the history of the Cherokee women--their beliefs, their life work, and their impact on tribal history
--should be read by anyone with an interest in ethnohistory, Southern history, womens studies, or material culture.American Historical Review

Fresh and intriguing. . . . This well-written, meticulously researched work is not just a history of basketry. . . .After reading this book, one will surely have greater insights into Cherokee baskets, the female artisans who made them, and the times in which they worked.
--Journal of Southern History

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