I don’t know about you, but when I see places or things named after a person, I like to know who it is.  When I started working at a campus at work, one of the wings is named after a man, but no one can tell me who it is and why he was important enough to have a corridor named after him.  Even Mr Google hasn’t been able to help.  It’s so frustrating. So, when I was doing the next block for QAL and it’s called, Aunt Eliza’s Star Block, I wanted to know who she was.  This time, there was somebody out there who knew and wrote a really interesting blog post about her, but here is the quick version.

Eliza was Eliza Custis.  She was the step granddaughter of George Washington, the first President of the United States.  As a teenager, Eliza fell in love with an Englishman, Thomas Law, and although there were doubts as to his suitability, she married him. Thomas Law who was in his 40s and she was a 19 year old heiress of a great fortune.

Sadly, we can’t say they lived happily ever after. He brought 2 illegitimate children to the marriage. Eliza then went on to have a daughter, also called Eliza.  In the early 1800s, Thomas Law returned to England and was away for over a year. When he returned, he brought another illegitimate son back with him. It seems as if he publicly kept a mistress and Eliza left the family home.

Today, that wouldn’t mean much but, at that time, it meant that she lost her money (in law, it belonged to her husband after marriage), and she had to leave behind her daughter who was seven. Eliza managed to visit her daughter while she was at boarding school and was able to build a relationship with her. Unfortunately, her daughter died at the age of 25 in childbirth.

In 1890, The Ladies Art Company renamed the block, Aunt Eliza’s star in recognition of the fight women had to go through in fighting for freedom and the custody of their children. Changes in the law were slow to come and the course of family history changed for so many as a result. 

Here is a brief rundown of the changes in law with regard to women’s rights and the custody of children. In 1839, mothers were given the right of custody of children up to the age of 7, in 1873 that was changed to include all children. 1882 the law woman was recognised as a being in her own right, being able to dispose of her own income in whatever way she chose. In 1937 women were able to sue for divorce on the same grounds as men but not until 1989 were the interests of children taken into account in custody hearings.  Amazingly, it wasn’t until 1996 that the law was changed to make it possible for abused persons to seek protective injunctions.

Whenever I think of this block, I will always think about the person behind the name and all the families that have been affected by those laws. Who would have thought there would have been so much in a name of a patchwork block!

This is one of the blocks in the 2021 Loopy’s Place Quilt Upon a Star Quilt Along . The instructions and tutorials are part of the Create with Loopy’s Membership club. There is plenty of time to catch up with all the previous blocks and access all the other projects and tutorials inside the club. Find out more details here.