When History major Violet Sleigh ’21 visited Carol’s Place, a shelter for women and children who are victims of abuse in Norristown, in fall 2019 as part of the Artist in the Community course, she wanted a way to stay involved and help others.
With the start of the pandemic, Sleigh thought of the impact it could have on shelter residents and found how she could stay connected: by making masks for the women and children there.
“With stay at home regulations in place at the start of the pandemic, I was concerned by the rise in reports of domestic violence rate,” said Sleigh. “I wanted to do something to support the people affected by this, and the onset of mask mandates gave me a way to help from a distance.”
In order to try and provide support during the pandemic, Costume Shop Manager for the Theatre Department Alisa Kleckner gave Sleigh the idea to make masks because of the shortages of medical ones, especially for people living in congregate settings. Kleckner also provided Sleigh with the mask pattern.
Over the past year, Sleigh has donated a few times to Carol’s Place, but also to a homeless encampment in Philadelphia and the Germantown Community Fridge. In addition, Sleigh has sold some masks and donated the income to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Making masks is one way for Sleigh to be able to help people impacted by the pandemic in a safe way, but also has become a kind of self-care.
“Making masks has been a great form of stress relief and distraction for me over the past year,” said Sleigh. “I've been grateful to have a way to care for people while being socially distanced, including family members and people in my community.”
Sleigh feels a strong connection to Carol’s Place because of her interest in the history of reproductive rights. For her capstone project, Sleigh is researching information about the forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous American women in the 1960s and 70s and framing it in the context of the Second Wave of feminism, and then comparing it to the movement for reproductive rights through birth control and abortion.
After graduation, Sleigh plans to pursue a birth doula certification and to continue her education with classes in professional tailoring and herbalism.