“Reproducing Lucy McWorter’s Dress”—short video shines light on dress, seamstress, freedom struggle

Fashioning Illinois: History Lost and Found from Chris Young on Vimeo.

In 1817 Lucy McWorter was the first McWorter to gain her freedom when Frank began his lifelong project of buying family members.  As a result of this choice, her son Squire was born free just a few months later.  The family eventually moved from Kentucky to Illinois to further their freedom mission. One outcome was the town of New Philadelphia.

Fast forward 100 years, and Mary Helen Yoakum is the Springfield, Illinois, dressmaker who combined modern day patterns with her own know-how to reproduce Lucy’s dress from a photo handed down through the family.  She’s also a volunteer at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum.

The dress is part of a current exhibit “Fashioning Illinois” at the Illinois State Museum.  Big thanks to the Illinois State Museum and curator Erika Holst for bringing these two women together AND producing this 10 minute video.  Take a look!