Okay, fun subject today… let’s talk about prison uniforms, those items of clothing that were designed with a two-fold purpose: as a mark of shame and to make escape and avoiding recapture difficult. (yippee-skippy)
Great Britain once used the Broad Arrow symbol, either stenciled or sewn onto clothing, to mark a person as a convicted criminal. Here in the United States, stripes were the usual mark of a convict.
Either way the uniforms were decorated – arrows or stripes – they instantly shouted ‘prisoner’ to anyone that saw them. So how does this relate to last week’s block in the Grandmother’s Choice quilt project?
In Great Britain, as here in the US, many suffragettes were willing to risk imprisonment to draw attention to the movement. Once released from the prisons or workhouses, the members of the Women’s Social and Political Union turned the Broad Arrow into a badge of distinction, proudly wearing replicas of their uniforms in public displays to draw even more attention to the fight for women’s rights.
When deciding on fabrics for my Broad Arrow block, I wanted to include a stripe as a nod to the women in the United States who used the same strategy – demonstrations utilizing passive resistance that resulted in arrest, conviction, and imprisonment to promote public awareness of their demand for the right to vote. (oops… the queen of run-on sentences strikes again)
Take us home Mr. Sulu. Full impulse power…
In other words, I’m going to make a sharp left turn away from reality and let you have another peek at the way my brain works.
Whenever I ponder prison stripes – and I don’t really ponder them too often, but when I do – my thoughts often wander over to memories of Krazy Kat, a comic strip created by George Herriman, that ran as a daily from 1913-1944. Ahem… that was before my time, but my thanks go out to the many devotees who kept the strip alive until I could stumble across it.
The strip took place in Coconino County, Arizona, and the storyline revolved around a love triangle between Krazy Kat, a mindlessly happy creature who absolutely adored one Ignatz Mouse, and Offissa Pupp.. who was patently ignored.
Ignatz absolutely despised the naively curious Krazy Kat, and the one joy in his life was to “Krease that Kat’s bean with a brick.” Krazy Kat always misinterpreted the brick bombings as a sign of Ignatz’ love.
Meanwhile, Offissa Pupp – the Limb of Law and the Arm of Order – was always on the lookout for a chance to nab Ignatz and toss him in the pokey. The strip would often end with Krazy disconsolate and alone, muttering, “Ah, there him is playing tag with Offissa Pupp, just like the boom compenions wot they is,” and Krazy Kat, the poetic clown, is left pining for her “L’il Ainjil.”
Of course the strip had many other wonderful characters that popped up here and there: Mrs. Kwakk Wakk and Bum Bill Bee, Don Kiyote (an aristocratic coyote) and Walter Cephus Austrige, just to name a few. But I know what you’re thinking… how much fun could it be reading about a perpetual victim of abuse where everyone uses an idiomatic vocabulary? Lots. You always knew how the strip was going to end – love always finds a way – and the joy, as in many things, is in the journey.
To our softhearted altruist, she is the adorably helpless incarnation of saintliness. To our hardhearted egoist, she is the puzzlingly indestructible embodiment of idiocy. The benevolent overdog sees her as an inspired weakling. The malevolent undermouse views her as a born target. Meanwhile Krazy Kat, through this double misunderstanding, fulfills her joyous destiny. — e.e. cummings
If you’ve never before heard of Krazy Kat there are several books out there that celebrate the comic art of George Herriman. Who knows, you might just enjoy the antics of Krazy, Ignatz and Pupp as much as I
did do. Here are some other sources you might find interesting:
Krazy Kat (overview at Wikipedia)