Women appeared frequently, but in domestic settings (note the work of Vermeer) rather than as unclothed, erotic objects. The placement of the woman within the household, however, refers to the oppressive kinship of north and south regarding the containment of ‘woman’s animal instincts’. It was thought that marriage and domesticity offered control over them. Skill in needlework, regarded by men as harmless, was widely practiced by women and evolved into a substitute for education.
The roots of the modern term ‘mainstream’ in visual art reach to the renaissance. It was at this point that specific kinds of art activity became gender-assigned. The mainstream tradition refers to large scale oil paintings and sculptures that deal with grand themes. Such works were made by men. It is likewise to the renaissance that we trace the roots of the ‘hiddenstream’, that artistic undercurrent of work by women manifested in forms such as weaving, quilting, embroidery, ceramics, body decoration, and stitchery—forms characterized by their utility (Collins and Sandell, 1984).
Hiddenstream networks, now as then, have been characterized by cooperation rather than hierarchy, and hiddenstream artists by anonymity rather than celebrity. Such celebrity as there has been occurred locally or regionally, as in fairs, festivals, and fund-raising events. The objects produced within the mainstream have come to be called art; the work produced within the hiddenstream, craft. Art education within the hiddenstream has occurred informally through relatives and acquaintances or self-help books and women’s magazines. This form of art education has proved to be resilient. Since hiddenstream skills historically have made women more suitable for marriage, the acquisition of these skills became widespread. Women with such skills were more likely to marry—and therefore to bear children—than women who lacked them. Wishing to see their daughters marry, women were motivated to transmit their skills across generations. Through this process the hiddenstream, walking the appropriate number of steps behind, has followed the mainstream to the present.