In Memory of Linda Eaton (1953-2021)

by Lynne Anderson, Director of the Sampler Archive Project

Linda Eaton

On August 18, 2021 the world of textile scholarship lost one of its brightest stars and most vocal advocates. Linda Eaton, Winterthur Museum's Senior Curator Emerita of Textiles and former John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections died after courageously battling a long-term illness. Linda was many things to many people, and she impacted hundreds of lives both professionally and personally. To me, Linda was a friend, a mentor, a collaborator, a problem solver, and an outrageously fun dinner companion.

Her support of the Sampler Archive Project ( was instrumental to our success in being granted funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was eager for the Winterthur Museum to be one of the project's first pilot sites, instantly lending credibility from one of the pre-eminent museums in early American decorative arts and providing ties to the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. When our first grant proposal to the NEH was not awarded funding, she was quick to understand the reviewers' concerns and even quicker at suggesting how to address those concerns. She knew how to expand our audience, how to increase attention to diversity, and who to go to when the project needed a better academic home. Her unwavering support and creative thinking were critical to making our case and convincing funders this was an important initiative. Linda's advocacy was long, strong, and effective.

On the lighter side, Linda knew all the best restaurants and was eager to share them. Our collaboration led to many dinner adventures in Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania. I never knew where we were going to eat, but I always knew I would enjoy both the conversation and the food. Linda was fun, she liked to laugh, and she was good at sharing stories. I will miss her greatly. And the field of textile scholarship will never be the same.

Below are more tributes to Linda. The first is the press release posted and distributed by the Winterthur Museum. It summarizes her professional life, her many accomplishments, and her impact on both people and the museum. The second is a more personal account by Tricia Wilson Nguyen who is eloquent in sharing why Linda was so special at what she did and why everyone cared for her so deeply. Both are fairly long and include images, so I have provided links instead of copying the text here. The others were written by colleagues whose work Linda influenced and supported. Everyone has a unique story to tell about their relationship with Linda. Below the tributes to Linda is information about her more obvious accomplishments and interactions: books, exhibitions, articles, interviews, videos, and podcasts. If I have missed some that need to be included, please let me know ([email protected].


In Memoriam: Beloved Curator, Educator, and Friend
Press release by the Winterthur Museum

A group of people looking at a sampler

Remembering Linda Eaton
Posted by the Museum of the American Revolution

Patricia Wilson Nguyen, The Embroiderer's Story

Amy Finkel, M. Finkel & Daughter
The world of antique samplers lost a shining star earlier this week. Linda Eaton, Winterthur Director of Collections and Textile Curator, was a friend of many. Her insightful intelligence, breadth of knowledge, and infectious laugh will be missed.
      I was privileged to be a dear friend of Linda. She and I traveled to Edinburgh a few years ago for the opening of an exhibition of antique samplers at the National Museum of Scotland, and I am fortunate to have spent this time with her. She had lived there for some years, early in her museum career, and took great delight in this city and all things Scottish, including a good glass of Scotch.
      Linda's contributions and excellent publications in the textile field are many and her special love of needlework and American samplers shaped Winterthur's collection, adding significantly to its depth and interest.

Whitney Krueger, daughter of Glee Krueger
I am sorry to learn of the passing of extraordinary curator, educator, and scholar, Linda Eaton. Truly Winterthur's crown jewel, for more than 3 decades Linda championed the conservation, history, makers, process, artistry, and merit of textiles. Her extensive contributions through lectures, exhibitions, publications, and workshops have left an enduring legacy of elevating appreciation of the field of textiles. Linda was a dear friend to mom, continually supporting and encouraging mom's lectures and research. And mom was mutual fan of Linda's, encouraging her endeavors, and enthusiastically attending her workshops and conferences.
      Linda championed any person curious or dedicated to exploration and education in textiles. She was deeply invested in the next generation of museum curators.
      Photos are from mom's last public event @cthistorical, Oct 2010. Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840. Glee, with Linda Eaton and Lynne Anderson, Director of the Sampler Archive Project.

Mary Brooks, Westtown School Archivist
Linda's generosity of spirit - her cheerful willingness to share her time and wisdom -was always instrumental in my work to lift up the Westtown School needlework collection. I know I am only one of many whom she supported this way, and I will be ever grateful for that. And we'll all miss her charming and witty presence, especially at the Winterthur needlework symposium.

Lynne Zacek Bassett, Textile and Costume Historian
The sad news is spreading rapidly. I am heartbroken to learn that Linda Eaton passed away last night. I am sorry for anyone who didn't know her---words are failing me---she was not just the leading scholar of American textiles, but the most generous and supportive colleague that you could ask for. Such a delight to hang out with as a friend, too! I will miss her laugh, which I can hear in my head now. I first met Linda in 1995 when I had my first Winterthur fellowship. She quickly became my professional role model as well as my good friend. The keyboard is swimming before my eyes from my tears... Linda was a superlative person who will be deeply missed by many.

Cynthia Shank Steinhoff, author Delaware Discoveries: Girlhood Embroidery 1750-1850
Linda Eaton's enthusiasm for textiles and especially samplers is what I remember most about her. She supported our work on Delaware Discoveries: Girlhood Embroidery 1750-1850 in many ways, from providing information about Delaware samplers in the Winterthur collection to answering our many questions to including Delaware samplers in the program for the Winterthur Needlework Conference in 2018. After the passing of needlework historian Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen, a group of Gloria's associates decided to raise funds for a sampler to be donated to Winterthur in her honor. Linda applauded this effort and the Mary Orr sampler, made in Delaware in 1831 and described in Delaware Discoveries, is now part of Winterthur's collection.

Longtime Winterthur Leader Honored with Emeriti Status
Antiques and the Arts, Feb 9, 2021



Quilts in a Material World cover imageQuilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection.New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007

In this pioneering publication, Winterthur's renowned quilt collection is presented through dazzling color photographs that showcase rich fabrics and skillful needlework techniques. The letters of twenty-three-year-old Mary Remington, a dedicated quilt maker, and the extraordinary whitework quilt she made in 1815 provide themes for the book, which looks at the quilts through the lives of their makers. Of the many quilts being seen here for the first time are quilts that express religious faith or commemorate marriages and other family connections; quilts in support of political candidates, made by women who could not vote; quilted bedspreads with matching quilted valances and dressing-table covers pictured in room settings; and much more. This exquisite presentation provides a rare opportunity to view the strengths of the Winterthur quilt collection, highlighting examples from the period of the early American republic, and to understand how the economics and politics of the time affected quilt materials and design in the early nineteenth century.
Excerpted from promotional material on


Printed Textiles cover image Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens
New York: The Monacelli Press, 2014.

Over 600 beautiful color photographs enhance the publication and put a wealth of detail and information at the fingertips of anyone fascinated by textile studies. The first half of Printed Textiles provides an in-depth exploration of the British and American textile printing industries, the use of these fabrics in furnishings, the designers and their designs, and notably, the chemistry of calico printing. The second half of the book provides a catalogue offering a rich visual banquet of motifs and colors. These motifs are stunningly intricate and widely varied and display a continuum from multiple colors to monochrome. Flora and fauna in books and paintings were a rich source for textile designers, who employed artistic license to create elaborate patterns that could work well in a printed repeat. Similarly, scenes from historical, mythological, theatrical, and literary sources were popular. Even caricatures found their way onto fabrics. Linda Eaton's achievement here is to take an already seminal work and bring it a step further, expanding on the scholarship and providing new visuals to create a richly nuanced history of an industry at the leading edge of the industrial revolution. It belongs in the hands of designers, collectors, and textile aficionados alike.
Review by AATCC (Association of Textile, Apparel & Materials Professionals)


Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches: An embroidery exhibition for the  pandemic!Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitcheswith Anne Hilker. Winterthur Museum Publications, 2020.
The needlewoman and her popularizing influence are the subject of a groundbreaking online exhibition at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library and the related book, Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches, written by organizing curators Linda Eaton and Anne Hilker and published by Winterthur late last year. Eaton, who retired in December after a stellar career as the John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw director of collections and senior curator of textiles at Winterthur, has long delivered fresh insight into even the most settled subjects. In documenting the life of Erica Wilson, she explores an avenue of scholarship still in its infancy, needlework's popular manifestations in the United States in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Through Eaton's efforts, Winterthur in 2015 received from the Kagan family a selection of Erica's embroideries, ranging from 1940s student pieces to her later work, plus designs and some of the inspirational items she collected on her travels.
Excerpted from Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches by Laura Beach, Antiques and the Arts Weekly, March 9, 2020.




Linda Eaton discussing large embroidery

This Work in Hand: Philadelphia Needlework from the 18th Century(2002-2003)

Needles & Haystacks: Pastoral Imagery in American Needlework (2005-2006)

Quilts in a Material World (2007) – traveling exhibition, after Winterthur, also staged in St. Louis, MO; Milwaukee, WI; and Richmond, VA

Who's Your Daddy? Families in Early American Needlework (2008-2009)

Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend (2010-2011) with Dr. Marla Miller

With Cunning Needle: Four Centuries of Embroidery (2011-2012)

The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, and Ornament (2014-2015)
Now online:

Embroidery: The Language of Art (2016 - 2017)
(2017) Online exhibition co-curated with Colette Loll. Online at:

Embroidery: The Thread of History (2018-2019)
Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches (2020-2021) Online exhibition, co-curated with Anne Hilker



A Look at Fabrics on Early American Quilts by Linda Eaton, 2007

Needlework and Their Frames: A Winterthur Primerby Linda Eaton, 2014

Fakes, Forgeries, and the Art of Detection by Linda Eaton and Colette Loll, 2017

Nothing to Sneeze At: Commemorative Handkerchiefs for The American Market by Linda Eaton



The Quilts of Winterthur (2010)

Winterthur's Linda Eaton Discusses Fancy Needlework with 'Centuries of Embroidery' (2011)

Domesticating Quilts: Furnishings, Formalism and Folk Art (2013)
Talk by Linda Eaton, presented as part of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's 2013 symposium, 'Quilts in Context: The Making of Meaning' (posted online Oct 13, 2017)

Favorite Things (2016)
Video from August 31, 2016 with Linda Eaton discussing one of her favorite objects at Winterthur--Sarah Darby's embroidered chimney piece, worked in the 1760s.

FlossTube Fiber Talk with Linda Eaton

FlossTube Fiber Talk with Linda Eaton (2018)
Interview with Gary Parr on October 14, 2018 where Linda discussed the exhibition Embroidery: The Thread of History with objects drawn from the textile collections at Winterthur with considerable emphasis on schoolgirl samplers and pictorial embroideries. Includes slides of the objects discussed.

FlossTube (2018)
Interview with Gary Parr on December 2, 2018. Linda talked about some of her favorite subjects, centered around whether needlework is art, the history of art and the role of women, how needlework fit and didn't fit in art history, clothing embroidery, and a little bit about the upcoming 'Costuming the Crown' exhibition.