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The idealization of mothers can be found in almost every human society, but it reached remarkable heights during the 19th century in the British Isles and North America. In Victorian society, a mother was “the angel in the house”, responsible for providing comfort through never-ending domestic duties. Many mothers and sons exchanged pillows, particularly during wartime. The poem on this pillow front is striking in its mention of the other parent, who also sacrificed “everything that could a pleasure be.”

Where was this textile created?

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The Vacation Spot

Mother pillow
North America: Canada, Central Canada, Ontario, Southern Ontario, Niagara Falls
Early 20th century
Rayon fabric, printed and machine sewn
49 cm x 45 cm
T90.0034 Textile Museum of Canada

Souvenir pillows began to appear in the late 19th century as an increasingly prosperous middle class traveled to such popular destinations as Niagara Falls. This pillow front is printed with a poem to “Mother and Dad” in a variation of the style known as a Mother pillow. It may be American or Canadian; there is a clue in the lines, on the lower left, “American Falls” and on the lower right, “Horseshoe Falls.” Perhaps the designer would have referred to Canada by name if she or he had been an American.

The souvenir pillow with a poem or homily addressed to Mother still flourishes as a gift item in Canadian stores, especially every May for Mother’s Day .

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