Textile Donation Increases Museum’s Ethel Cutler Freeman Holdings

Women’s Seminole patchwork skirt (2011.18.5), maker unidentified



James Powell

Associate Registrar


Recently, Nancy Niles Faesy and her daughter Margaret Faesy MacKenzie donated twelve Seminole patchwork textile items to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The items include women’s and girls’ skirts, a women’s matching sleeveless blouse and skirt, and men’s and boys’ jackets. These beautiful items are welcome additions to the Museum’s textile collection, and they carry the added value of having once belonged to Ethel Culter Freeman. Granddaughter Nancy Niles Faesy and great granddaughter Margaret Faesy Mackenzie tell the Museum that Seminole Tribal members made these textiles and then gave them to Ethel Cutler Freeman, who in turn gave many to members of her family. Nancy Niles Faesy wrote in her donation letter that she felt her grandmother would be pleased that these textile gifts have been returned to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


This month the Museum again seeks your assistance. We are searching for information on who may have made these items and who may have given them to Mrs. Freeman.  This invaluable information will allow us to link these items directly to Seminole Tribal members and properly place the textiles in the Tribe’s history.  We are also searching for more specific information on the skirt pictured above.  Can you assist us in describing this item? Any information on skirt style, patchwork designs, and date would be helpful.  Please post a comment, or contact the Museum at 877-902-1113, to share your knowledge on this skirt, the textile items made and given to Mrs. Freeman, or any recollections or stories related to her.


We would like to thank the family of Ethel Cutler Freeman for this and all their past donations to the Museum, each item forms a clearer picture of Ethel Cutler Freeman, her relation to the Seminole Tribe, and the culture and history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  To view these textiles, additional items related to Ethel Cutler Freeman, or any museum materials, please call the Museum at 877-902-1113 to make an appointment.  Thank you!








Ethel Cutler Freeman, January 1946
 In 1939, Ethel Cutler Freeman decided to undertake a great adventure.  Already a wife to a successful New York stockbroker and mother to three children, Freeman had become bored with the east coast social life available to her.  A close friend encouraged her to take classes at nearby Columbia University and Freeman quickly found herself under the tutelage of eminent anthropologist Ruth Benedict.  An interest in Native American Tribes soon developed and, while conducting research for the American Museum of Natural History, Freeman discovered the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Freeman decided to take a trip down to the Big Cypress reservation to study and document the Seminoles life in the Everglades.  So began a thirty year relationship between Freeman and members of the Seminole Tribe in Florida.


6 thoughts on “Textile Donation Increases Museum’s Ethel Cutler Freeman Holdings”

  1. Wonderful stuff! I’ve spent some time with Freeman’s archives at the Smithsonian, so if ever I can be of use, don’t hesitate to call on me.

    1. Jessica-thanks so much for the offer! We will keep you in mind as we continue to process this fascinating collection.

  2. Beautiful work of art, this skirt.
    It will surely jog some memories if it is seen widely. Maybe print it up large & take it to the Elder & Grandparent Day events at some of the Senior Centers & the Tribe schools?

    This Ms. Freeman sounds like a wonderful person & her descendants are to be commended, also.

    As always, the posts here are hugely informative. Many thanks for an interesting topic.

  3. Hello Jan Godown Annino-

    Thank you for the great comment and suggestions, we really appreciate it!

    The Museum strives to create as many opportunities as possible for community participation in the process to identify and catalog the Museum’s holdings. In addition to this blog, the Museum’s “Identifying the Past” column in the Seminole Tribune newspaper (hardcopy and online), and Facebook page, are two of these opportunities where readers can learn about and contribute to the identification and cataloging process.

    Also, by coincidence, the Museum recently created several digital and hardcopy resources based on the Museum’s holdings which were offered and taken to a variety of Seminole community events. My understanding is that these resources were a great success and my hope is that we will glean further information on the original items. Perhaps a fellow coworker, or someone at one of these events, will blog or comment about these resources and reaction?!

    If possible, we will expand on this outreach and do as you suggest for these textile items.

    And thank you for your great books and support!


  4. When I was a little girl my mother and were privaledged enough to go to the reservation with Mrs Freeman. I had my picture taken with JoDan then the youngest Indian chief ever. I was given a skirt of the same textile by an old woman on the reservation.

    1. Hello Donna Avery-
      Thank you for the great comment, and for sharing your memories of Mrs. Cutler and the Seminole Tribe. Please do keep in touch!
      Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

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