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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Object Record

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Object Name Skirt, Wrap
Catalog Number 2015.014.043
Description Pleated wrap skirt in White Hmong tradition, off-white color. Precisely made, 5" long cartridge pleats are hand-sewn to a 2" waist band of same cotton fabric. Waistband extends into long sashes to tie the skirt in place. Has "B.W." written on there (Betty Weeth).
Collection LCHS Hmong Collection
Year Range from 1988
Year Range to 1998
Provenance Associated with the Friendship Program (1988-1998).
Material Cotton
Dimensions W-27 inches
Width (in) 27
Search Terms Hmong
Featured in Things that Matter
Notes This is a traditional Hmong pleated wrap skirt made of natural muslin colored cotton fabric with 5" long cartridge pleats are hand-sewn to a 2" waist band. These skirts are made by the White Hmong. The Hmong divide themselves into three sub-groups based on geographical origin and dialect; the White Hong, the Green Hmong, and the Black Hmong also called the Hmu. White Hmong women wear these skirts falling to the knees with puttes encasing the legs from the ankles to the knees in thick rolls. Today these skirts are impractical for everyday wear and are only worn for traditional events and celebrations.

Featured in Things that Matter

"To help accommodate all the Hmong who resettled in La Crosse in the late 20th century, members of Christ Episcopal Church created the Friendship Program (1988-1998).

One of those members, Betty Weeth (1922-2004), was the owner of this White Hmong pleated skirt. Miss Betty, as she was better known to community members, advocated education, sponsorship and naturalization, and higher quality medical care and living conditions for Hmong refugees. She was trusted by the Hmong community because she was there for them in times of need.

She found sponsors for families trying to get to the United States. When landlords took advantage of Hmong tenants who were unaccustomed to Wisconsin winters, Miss Betty helped them heat their homes.

She not only worked face-to-face with Hmong families, but also collaborated with Hmong community leaders and local government officials to create better relations between the two. Some La Crosse community members were resentful toward the Hmong for receiving tax money for health and education programming. But Miss Betty believed everyone had the right to receive an education, and this helped fuel her work with the Hmong.

Due to Betty Weeth’s fortunate upbringing, she had opportunities in life, such as a college education paid for by a wealthy benefactor. This experience led her to believe that opportunities were not to be squandered. In her work with the Hmong, Miss Betty encouraged children and parents to go to school to attain jobs in medical fields where applicants who could speak both Hmong and English were needed.

The work Miss Betty did to help the Hmong showed them that she and other La Crosse citizens were committed to helping them in their adjustment. Through her hard work, she gained respect from Hmong community members — and many gifts of traditional Hmong clothing."

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: Creating better relationships between Hmong refugees, Americans
Author: Alyssa Spiering
Publish Date: January 2, 2016