Who is a subversive woman?

The dictionary lists these synonyms for a subversive person: a troublemaker, dissident, agitator, revolutionary, renegade, rebel.

Subversive women throughout the ages have turned society on its head by being themselves – progressive women in a male-dominated world that prefers the status quo. Troublemaking suffragettes, revolutionary feminists, rebels with a cause – these are subversive women whose agitating has made progress for all women.

There is also this definition of subversion as it relates to feminism: The act of undermining patriarchal institutions. To subvert something is to take oppressive forces and turn them into something that challenges the oppressor. … To engage in subversion is to use the patriarch’s “rules” against him, making his intended meaning into something completely different… one can also subvert gender through the act of recontextualization.”

The needlework arts have long been deemed an appropriately feminine pastime or profession. “Stick to your knitting,” the patriarchal hierarchy would tell women when the latter dared to step foot into the man’s world, whether it be politics, business, religion, science or technology.

Well, we’ve “recontextualized” the traditionally feminine art of cross stitch to a degree by designing these samplers featuring the words of strong women in a stereotypical feminine style.


Bougainvillea, which abounds around my California home, was the inspiration for the floral accents and illuminated letters. Woman I have admired, who have inspired me, spoke – in some cases, are reputed to have spoken –  the quotes.

How did the What She Said Stitches collection begin?