March 3rd is International Sex Workers Rights Day, in honor of this day, and how hard sex workers have been hit through the pandemic, I’m raising funds for Sex Workers Outreach Program Brooklyn, a community led organization dedicated to the advocacy and care of NYC sex workers. selling 8x10" prints of each embroidered block of this quilt.
The history of needle work and sex work are tightly woven into the fabric that form the narrative of women. Disseminating these two important historical roles women have played by embroidering and piecing them together to build a quilt, honors the women who have been visciously marginalized for centuries.
Quilting, a product of domestic labor and necessity has a rich history throughout the world and United States. Today, quilts are seen as pieces of art, historically, quilts were often thankless women’s work driven by utility, but they were also outlets of expression acting as an artistic medium displaying the stories and strife of their lives that would have otherwise been lost in time. By piecing together smaller scraps of fabric, outgrown or tattered clothing, women were able to overcome scarcity of material and their resourcefulness kept their families warm.
The earliest evidence of quilting dates as far back as 3400 BC, over time, the complexity of the designs demonstrated the skill and vision of the maker. Before modern machinery, quilting had to be done entirely by hand, women learned if they worked together, creating a quilt was less laborious and it provided them with social interaction, gatherings and support outside of their homes.
Quilting became a generational skill, passed on from mothers to daughters, for centuries we’ve been comforted by quilts, they’ve kept us warm and have reminded us of the generations of women before who have shaped an undercompensated domestic task into heirlooms and works of art.
Shrouded beneath a blanket of shame lies today’s sex workers, viewed by most as victims of circumstance and poor life choices, the history of sex work is far more complex. Sumerian records lists female sex workers as one of the earliest professions dating back to 2400 BC. Economic necessity, the desire for a better life, and sexual freedom were some of the reasons that drove women to the sex trade.
By the late 19th century, women became the backbone of American textile production; working in factories weaving cloth, cutting patterns, and assembling garments. Needle trades transformed domestic tasks to skilled labor; however, these jobs were often reserved for white women and even with regular employment, these jobs were not financially stable. In economic down times, women had to figure out a way to be more resourceful. In 1859, Dr. William Sanger’s study of 2000 sex workers confined in New York’s Blackwell’s Island prison revealed that before entering the sex trade, 1000 of them were domestic servants and another 500, were seamstresses.
The criminalization of voluntary, consensual sex work today is what makes our sex workers unsafe. It disproportionately affects women of color and is a contributor to the leading cause of death for trans women of color. Anti sex work laws like FOSTA-SESTA have taken away online platforms that were a lifeline to sex workers to vet potential clients, warn others, and share information to stay safe.
The sex trade thrives off of oppressive systems: patriarchy, capitalism and systemic racism. Does decriminalizing sex work normalize the misogynistic entitlement to sex? That already is normalized. Decriminalizing sex work means being able to seek justice for crimes committed against them (which often *include* trafficking and coercion), it means protection and dignity, it means access to care and the assumption of autonomy.
Sex worker rights are women’s rights, labor rights, health rights, they are human rights; and your feminism is not intersectional if they are not included.
Sex Workers Rights Quilt Block Print
- Printed on 8x10" premium matte 230gsm paper
- Each print numbered and stamped by me
- Note, the hot pink embroidered blocks are not available for printing due to their print quality
- Some blocks print better than others, my favorites are: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18