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Bennett, Mary Jane

Mary Jane Bennett
Mary Jane Bennett

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Basketmaker from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Mary Jane and husband Jessie come from a long line of basketmakers. Mary Jane would make trips to Charleston as a young girl to deliver her mother's baskets, and remembers people drawing the style they wanted on paper. She would take the drawings back to her mother, who would study the drawing and then make the basket.

During the depression, Bennett's mother rarely made a basket for personal use. Everything made had to be sold.

Jessie Bennett was one of the few male basketmakers in an arena dominated by women. For years, Jessie made bottoms and placemats and focused on marketing the Bennett family baskets. He eventually made his first basket - a large market basket of sweetgrass, bulrush, and pine needle.

Regarding one of the job hazards, Mary Jane always put turpentine on her shoes when collecting sweetgrass to keep the snakes away. She "just had to hope they didn't run toward me instead of away."

Video   (View Transcript)   Pop-up window. Get free QuickTime download.

bullet icon Basket styles (01:56)

Bennett discusses new designs, special occasion baskets customers request, and uses of pine needle, sweetgrass, and palm in basket weaving

bullet icon Bennett instructing students (02:24)

bullet icon Family usage (01:26)

Bennett’s family used sweetgrass baskets for corn and rice, but mostly the baskets were sold to supplement family income.

bullet icon The fanner basket (01:41)

Bennett provides a history of basket making at the Boone Hall rice plantation and the uses of the fanner basket

bullet icon Mother's influence (03:37)

Bennett relates how the children in her family would help her mother make baskets by beginning the bottoms.

bullet icon Bennett identifies and gives the usage for the baskets she makes (03:18)

bullet icon "Low Country Basket Sewer" (03:03)

Vintage footage from this 1976 documentary, Bennett talks about business at her basket stand while she demonstrates how she builds up a basket.

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