On this day in 1934, aspiring dancer Ella Fitzgerald, intimidated by other competitors, changed her act to singing at the last minute and won the Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Fitzgerald was only seventeen years old and a ward of New York State at the time, having been orphaned two years before. After a failed first attempt singing “The Object of My Affection”, the singer’s second try at the tune brought down the house. By the 1950’s, Fitzgerald had become a jazz legend for her innovative vocal skills.
Lorraine Lyon Fitzgerald of Nebraska pieced this “Delectable Mountains in Rising Sun Setting” quilt top in 1960 and it was documented in 1989 as part of the Nebraska Quilt Project, carried out by the Lincoln Quilters Guild.
On this day in 1827, abolitionist and educator Emily Howland was born in Sherwood, New York. Howland taught the children of freed slaves in Washington, D.C. In 1857, she built a school in Sherwood and personally founded and financially supported fifty other schools for emancipated slaves. She taught in several of these schools and was also active in local to national suffrage movements.
Myla Perkins machine pieced, hand appliqued and machine quilted this quilt, titled “Underground Railroad” (or Grandmother’s Fan variation), in 1984. Perkins made the quilt when she was a member of The Quilting Six group, a small quilting circle in Detroit, Michigan made up of former sorority sisters, college friendships and two sets of sisters. The quilt is owned by the Michigan State University Museum.
On this day in 1945, Wilma Pearl Mankiller, who would become the first female chief of he Cherokee Nation, was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. She was the sixth of eleven children; her father was full-blooded Cherokee and his mother was a Caucasian of Dutch and Irish descent. Mankiller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 for her work on the relationship between the Federal Government and the Cherokee Nation.
This “Indian Boys and Girls Quilt” was made by the Senior Citizens Sewing Club in Cherokee, North Carolina in 1996. The piece was machine and hand pieced and hand quilted by the group who “meet each Wednesday to make quilts, share stories, discuss tribal politics, and speak the Cherokee language.” The quilt is now in the collection of the Michigan State University Museum.
On this day in 1558, 25-year-old Elizabeth succeeded her sister Queen Mary I, beginning the Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and was nicknamed the Virgin Queen because she resisted marriage feeling it would endanger her authority as ruler of England and Ireland.
Elizabeth Briskey Mast made this scrap crib quilt around 1898 in Arthur, Illinois. The 34” x 39” quilt was machine pieced and hand quilted and is now in the permanent collection of the Illinois State Museum, who contributed it to The Quilt Index in 2000.
On this day in 1915, Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) died in Alabama at the age of 59 from congestive heart failure. Washington was born into slavery in rural Virginia and after the Civil War he worked many jobs and still managed to go to school. At age 16 he left home and walked 500 miles to the Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute and took a job as a janitor to pay his room and board.
Eva Perkins Ragsdale of Trevillians, Virginia (about 170 miles from Washington’s birthplace) made this Brick Pattern Quilt around 1915 from checked, striped and plaid wool flannel. The quilt was documented as part of the Kentucky Quilt Project.
On this day in 1982, the Vietnam Memorial, designed by Yale University architecture student Maya Lin, was dedicated in Washington, D.C. The monument is a simple v-shaped black granite wall inscribed with the names of 57,939 Americans who died in the war, arranged in order of the date of their death versus their rank.
This Double Irish Chain Crib Quilt was entirely handmade by an unknown quiltmaker in 1830 and was purchased for the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum from Kathi LaTourette of Evergreen, Colorado through memorial donations for Staff Seargant Joshua Ryan Hager, the son of a museum member who was killed while serving in Iraq in 2007. LaTourette lost her first husband in the Vietnam War and had a son who also served in Iraq.
RMQM is so pleased to house this crib quilt as a symbol of a mother’s love for her child, and in keeping with that, as a symbol of new life that each child begins. Last, in tribute, that we may be reminded always, that mothers before, in the present, and mothers still to come, have and will lose their children to war.
On this day in 1954, Ellis Island shuts its doors. The immigration gateway that opened in 1892 processed more than 12 million people with a peak occurring from 1892-1924. The island was name for its owner in the 1770’s, Samuel Ellis.
This Navy Signature fundraising quilt was made by the Ladies Auxiliary, Fleet Reserve Association, Unit No. 5 in Norfolk, Virginia between 1941-42. It contains 35 blocks and over 400 embroidered names, including that of NYC Mayor Fiorella Laguardia. From the age of 25-28 Laguardia, whose father was Italian and whose mother was Jewish of Austrian heritage, worked as an interpreter for the U. S. Immigration Services at Ellis Island.
Karen Biedler Alexander of Lopez Island, Washington, owns the quilt and contributed her photos and research to the Quilt Index as part of the Signature Quilt Pilot Project.
On this day in 1918, World War I (also known as the Great War) ended on the 11 a.m. when German forces, low on manpower and supplies and facing certain invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies outside of Compiegne, France. The war left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, and at least five million civilians dies from disease, starvation or exposure.
In honor of Veteran’s Day I’d like to spotlight two quilts and their makers whose work is documented in the Quilt Index, one made by a solider and one made in honor of a military nurse.
Levi Griswold of Yarrow, Missouri machine and hand pieced this Schoolhouse Variation quilt sometime between 1890-1925 and his aunt hand quilted it. From this Quilt Index record, contributed by the State Historical Society of Iowa: “Levi made the quilt when he was about 15 years old. He was awarded Distinguished Service Cross in WW I where he was killed in action.”
Quiltmaker Ann Holmes from Asheville, North Carolina, made “Thank You Clara Barton” as her entry to the Quilt Alliance’s “Home Is Where the Quilt Is” contest in 2012. Ann’s artist’s statement:
“It is amazing all that she accomplished for our country. Establishing a public school; “Angel of the Battlefield” during the Civil War; spent four years to identify over 22,000 missing soldiers; established the American Red Cross and served as president for 23 years; at 83, president of National First Aid Association. She certainly patched many lives together! Her work was not considered women’s work and never had the right to vote. Clara died in 1912.”
On this day in 1969, “Sesame Street,” the educational television show for young children conceived by documentary producer Joan Ganz Cooney, debuted. Cooney hired puppeteer Jim Henson to create diverse characters with positive social messages to help underprivileged 3-5-year-olds prepare for kindergarten. Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and friends have aired in more than 120 countries and today, an estimated 8 million people watch the show each week in the U.S. alone.
Letha Lundquist of Port Sanilac, Michigan, hand pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted this original design of scenes from her childhood, titled “A Village Street” in 1978. Lundquist documented her quilt as part of the Michigan Quilt Project in 1984.
On this day in 1860, Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA was born in Savannah, Georgia. Known to her family as Daisy, Ms. Low had a lifelong interest in the arts and a love of animals including exotic birds. Visitors to the family home–a museum since 1956 (www.juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org)–can view a star-patterned quilt, made by Low’s niece Sarah Stites Gordon, proudly displayed in one of the bedrooms.
This remarkably modern looking “Star of Columbia” quilt was made in Fort Gaines, Georgia between 1876-1900 was pieced by hand and machine and quilted by hand and is 79 inches square. The owner of the quilt, the granddaughter of the quiltmaker, contributed this documentation in Minnesota. She recalled: “The big house burned in 1939 from a chimney fire. The tenants were able to get 2 trunks of quilts & my grandmother’s organ out. Family bible, 14 portraits and 5 trunks of quilts burned. My father and mother kept the quilts and at their death passed on to me and my sister. My sister died July 2008. She had no children.”
This quilt was documented during the Minnesota Quilt Project in 2010.