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East Preston, Nova Scotia, 1920
East Preston, Nova Scotia?, 1989
Biography synopsis
A descendant of the Black Loyalists of 1812, Edith (Drummond) Clayton was one of Nova Scotia’s best known basket weavers. The Splintwood technique of basket making she used originated in Africa and was passed down from mother to daughter over six generations. Through the Atlantic Slave trade, this method made its way from Africa to the Americas and then to Nova Scotia during the Black migrations of 1812-14. Clayton made her first basket at eight years of age and grew up knowing that basket weaving was not recreational. Basket making served as a year-round means to earning much-needed income in a social environment that offered Blacks almost exclusively menial, low-waged employment opportunities, if any. Known for her market baskets, Clayton wove many other forms including church collection plates, horns of plenty and baby cradles. She is also known to have obtained natural dyes from Mi’Kmaq women to decorate her work, which speaks to a relationship of exchange and cooperation between African and First Nations peoples in Nova Scotia. Clayton participated in craft fairs across Canada and enjoyed teaching her craft to Canadian and international students as a way of sharing and preserving her heritage. Her career highlights include: representing Nova Scotia at Expo 86 in Vancouver and receiving the Queen’s Medal in 1977. Edith (Drummond) Clayton died on October 8, 1989, knowing that her daughter, Clara Clayton-Gough and many others would keep her family’s basket weaving tradition alive.
Media used
Basket making
File & Archive locations
Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC

Writings about
Bristow, Peggy. We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History. Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1994
Fuller, Danielle. Writing the Everyday: Women's Textual Communities in Atlantic Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004
Gordon, Joleen. Acadian Root Baskets. Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia: Museum of Nova Scotia, 2005
Gordon, Joleen. Edith Clayton's Market Basket: A Heritage of Splinterwood Basketry from Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia: Museum of Nova Scotia, 1977
Gordon, Joleen. "The Basketry Traditions of Nova Scotia." Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot 17.2 (1986): 52-57
Saskatoon Women's Calendar Collective (2010). Herstory 2011: The Canadian Woman's Calendar. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Cocteau Books, 2011
Senn, Roma. The Haligonians: 100 Fascinating Lives from the Halifax Region. Halifax: Formac Publishing, 2005

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