Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Blog

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.