The Young Pioneers of China, founded in 1949 as a Communist group for children aged six to fourteen, flies a red flag with a triangular cutout on its right edge. The group’s Constitution stipulates that members wear red scarves knotted around their necks to correspond with the flag’s missing section. This quilt cover depicts children wearing these scarves, which represent the blood of those who gave their lives in support of the revolution. As the quilt cover’s sunflower motif reveals, even young children revered Chairman Mao, their “sun.”
This quilt cover probably dates from the period just before the organization was dismantled, early in the Cultural Revolution. It was reinstated in 1978, and today, most children in the People’s Republic of China become Young Pioneers by the time they leave elementary school.
Rachel Ward Sepielli is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Curatorial Fellow in the Textiles Department.