On this day in 1881, the American National Red Cross was founded in Washington, D.C. Founders Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons started the organization to provide humanitarian aid to victims of war and natural disasters in affiliation with the International Red Cross, for whom Barton had worked during the Franco-Prussian War.
This stunning Red Cross fundraising quilt was completed by Anna Clare Tate Stanfield of Wichita Falls, Texas in January 1917. From this Quilt Index record:
In all there are more than 500 names on this quilt, and the quilt raised over $300 for the Red Cross. The five-pointed stars are hand pieced and appliqued over the block seam junctures. Additional names were also written around the edge of each wheel. Some of these are company names, with the names of employees within the wheel.
Stanfield’s son, J. Tate Stanfield currently owns the quilt and documented it during the Texas Quilt Search. The quilt is included in the book Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, Vol. I, 1836-1936, by Karoline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes (Austin: University of Texas Press) and was included in an exhibition by the same name in the Texas State Capitol Rotunda, Austin, Texas, April 19-21, 1986.
On this day in 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets they called “waist overalls”—blue jeans were born. Strauss was a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who ran a successful dry goods business with stores all over the Western states. Davis, a tailor from Nevada who bought supplies from Strauss, designed the new garment and asked Strauss to fund the patent application. The 501 brand jean was originally sewn in worker’s homes and quickly became the best selling work pant in the U.S. Levi Strauss & Co. now employs over 10,000 people worldwide.
Pauline Salzman of Treasure Island, Florida made this house-shaped quilt, titled “It’s All in the Genes,” for the “Home Is Where the Quilt Is” contest held by the Quilt Alliance in 2012. From Salzman’s artist’s statement: “Finding the perfect pair of jeans is not a unique problem. It’s about the jeans and the genes. However, this quilt was, also, about expanding my horizons. I took a class from Susan Shie where I learned to paint and write on fabric. This technique allows me to tell a story and have a great deal of fun.”
On this day in 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously, in the case of Brown versus Board of Education, that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The trial came about after young Linda Brown was denied access to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas due to the color of her skin. Six years later in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lucille and Abon Bridges made the decision to send their six-year-old daughter Ruby to an all-Caucasian school. Ruby attended school escorted by federal marshals and endured viscous protestors. In solitude (the rest of the students withdraw from the class), Ruby attended every day of her first grade year, the singular student of Barbara Henry. Ruby Bridges still lives in New Orleans and serves as chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, an organization she formed in 1999 to promote “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.”
Marion Coleman of Castro Valley, California made this quilt, titled “Ruby Bridges: What a Difference A School Makes,” in 2006. The 41½” square wall quilt includes images and phrases printed and stitched on fabric. The quilting is described as follows: Quilted in red thread: “Tessie Provost” “Gail Etienne” “Leonna Tate” “Mrs. Barbara Hershey teacher” “Marshall’s” “Ruby Bridges” “United States” Quilted in black thread, “Jim Crow” “family” “friends” “community” “programs” “coleman” “rulers” Quilted in white thread, “pencils” “integration” “courage” “books” “letters”. The quilt is part of the Michigan State University Museum’s permanent collection.
On this day in 1964, Detroit songwriter turned vocal performer Mary Wells gave Motown its first number one hit when “My Guy” reached the top of the charts. Wells suffered from spinal meningitis as a child, and in her final years she battled larynx cancer. In 1991, she testified before a Congressional Committee to support funding for cancer research. She passed away from the disease in July 1992.
In her Congressional address she said: “I’m here today to urge you to keep the faith. I can’t cheer you on with all my voice, but I can encourage, and I pray to motivate you with all my heart and soul and whispers.”
Sallie Royston of Natchitoches, Louisiana made this Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt in 1939. This hand appliqued, pieced and quilted beauty was one of the last quilts that Royston made before her death in 1940 due to throat cancer. Her great granddaughter inherited the quilt and documented it in 2002 during the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project.
On this day in 1934, Grace Ogot was born Grace Emily Akinyi in Asembo, in the district of Nyanza, Kenya. She trained as a nurse in Uganda and in England. She has worked as a midwife, a tutor, as journalist, as a broadcaster and for an airline. In 1984 she became one of only a handful of women to serve as a Member of Parliament and the only woman assistant minister in the cabinet of then President Daniel arap Moi.
Moni Cah of Nairobi, Kenya machine pieced and quilted this 42” x 47” quilt between 1976-1999. Cah sells her work in a cooperative contemporary African quilt shop in Nairobi called “Amani a Juu.” From the quilt’s label: “Our quilts are designed and crafted here in Nairobi, Kenya using local and international materials. To create an exclusive look, we dye, batik, and screen print our own fabrics. We also incorporate traditional East African kitenge and kikoi fabrics, as well as high-quality West African mud cloth. This variety provides a unique canvas for our contemporary designs. Furthermore, we hand stitch all of our bindings and use a free-arm sewing machine to quilt all-over swirl, meander, and floral designs. We measure and cut all scraps and cloth uniquely for each quilt.” The quilt was purchased by a Michigan State University Museum employee and is now part of the museum’s permanent collection.
On this day in 1904, the first modern Olympic games to be held in the U.S. opened in St. Louis, Missouri. The World Exposition was held at the same time in the city, which overshadowed the poorly organized games. Since there were few entrants, and most were from the U.S., American athletes won most of the awards.
Sue Dee Grainger Brown of Houston, Texas made this stunning hand pieced, embroidered and embellished Crazy Quilt in 1886. The Quilt Index record states, “Family history on this quilt states that it won first prize a the St. Louis World’s Fair.” Brown’s family members documented the quilt during the Texas Quilt Search. The quilt is included in the book Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, Vol. I, 1836-1936, by Karoline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes (Austin: University of Texas Press) and was included in an exhibition by the same name in the Texas State Capitol Rotunda, Austin, Texas, April 19-21, 1986.
On this day in 1973 tennis stars Robby Riggs, U.S. champion from the 1930’s and ‘40’s, and Australian Margaret Court faced off in a $10,000 winner-take-all “battle of the sexes” challenge match. Court lost to Riggs and Riggs went on to challenge Bill Jean King to a $100,000 winner-take-all match, an event dubbed “the libber vs. the lobber.” King beat Riggs in three sets.
This Crazy Quilt was made in New Hampshire between 1885-1890 by an unknown quilter. The quilt is made of silk velvet and satin and heavily embroidered with a horseshoe, fans, Kate Greenaway, Chinese fans, large wheeled bicycle, animals, and a tennis racquet. It was documented in 1984 by the maker’s great-great niece during the North Carolina Quilt Project.
On this day in 1909, “Mother” Maybelle Carter (Addington), country music legend, was born in Nickelsville, Virginia. She is the mother of three daughters Helen, Valerie June (better known later in life as June Carter Cash), and Anita. The sisters performed with their mother as the “Carter Sisters.” The Carter family was inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970. Maybelle Carter passed away in 1978 and is buried with her family in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Mary Carter Rollins and Mary Alice Carter, mother and daughter from Boones Creek, Virginia, made this Dresden Plate quilt around 1929. The quilt is all handmade: pieced, appliqued and quilted with scrap fabric that includes old dresses. The quilt was documented during the Quilts of Tennessee project by the daughter/granddaughter of the makers.
On this day in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation making the Mother’s Day holiday official, to be celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Many U.S. states celebrated Mother’s Day as early as 1911, and the idea for a day of peace in honor of mothers is credited to both Julia Ward Howe (1872) and Anna Jarvis (1907).
Viola Haeline Dollar Lake of Macon, Georgia made this Mother’s Choice quilt in the 1940’s. Lake was a homemaker and mother of eight children who learned to quilt as a teenager for necessity. Her great granddaughter inherited the quilt and documented it during the Florida Quilt Project in 2007.
On this day in 1945, Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe (VE) Day. The Nazi’s surrendered on this day and more than 13,000 British Prisoners of War were released and sent home.
Mary Gasperik of Chicago, Illinois made this Victory Garden quilt in the mid 1940’s. The description in this Quilt Index record, provided by Gasperik’s grand-daughter Susan Salser: “This quilt is Mary’s personal expression of her hope for future peace in the world and for the survival of her native Hungary. To a traditional pattern, she added symbols to honor her two countries: V for Victory of the Allied Cause and the Oak and Olive Branch Wreath, a symbol found surrounding the coat of arms on historical flags of Hungary.” The quilt is part of the Mary Gasperik Private Collection, documented by author and researcher Susan Salser.