On this day in 1720, cross-dressing English pirate Mary Read died in prison in Jamaica. She was pregnant at the time. Read lived her life as a man on and off throughout her life. As a girl, her mother dressed her as a boy to gain favor and funding from her grandmother. Mary’s half-brother had died recently and her mother hoped to fool the woman to gain her husband’s inheritance. Mary continued to live as a boy and after serving as a footman, sought work as a sailor, joining a band of Caribbean pirates eventually.
Peggy Scott of Arapahoe, of North Carolina, made this Little Boy’s Britches quilt in the 1930’s. Scott machine pieced this 77.5” x 78.5” with scraps and hand quilted it with the help of neighbors. She documented her quilt in 1996 as part of the North Carolina Quilt Project.
On this day in 1972, Motown Records pop sensation, the Temptations, earn a #1 hit with their song Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” The five-man group was formed in the 1960’s in Detroit, Michigan and hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart with 38 songs.
Sovilla Mast Schrock, a member of the Arthur, Illinois Amish community, made this Rolling Stone (or Rolling Star) quilt around 1940. Schrock machine pieced and hand quilted the 74” x 85” quilt that is now part of the permanent collection of the Illinois State Museum.
On this day in 1895, William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman was born in Harper, Liberia. Tubman is known as the “father of modern Liberia,” serving as its 19th President. Tubman’s grandparents were part of a group of 69 slaves who were freed from slavery in Augusta, Georgia and sent to live in Liberia by Emily Tubman, a philanthropic woman.
This all-handmade quilt, titled “Liberian Star,” was made by Leona Johnson of Monrovia, Liberia in 1992. From the Quilt Index record: “The quilt was brought to Flint, Michigan by the maker’s sister’s son, Rev. Emmanuel Bailey. Emmanual goes to Monrovia, Liberia about every 6 months to see his relatives and to work on the building of an orphanage for the victims of war.” The quilt was purchased along with one other by Johnson for the Michigan State University Museum Collection.
On this day in 1997, Lilian Leigh Eselgroth, was born in Durham, North Carolina to Amy Milne and Chris Eselgroth.
Mrs. Karl Schegel machine pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted this 39” x 40” “North Carolina Lily with Flying Geese” quilt between 1850-1875 in Detroit, Michigan. The quilt was documented as part of the Michigan Quilt Project and is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum collection, one of the more than 250 historical societies and museums represented by quilts in the Index.
Happy Sweet Sixteen to my Carolina Lily, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
On this day in 1957, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was born, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She was named after both her maternal aunt, Caroline Lee Bouvier Radziwill, and her maternal great-grandmother, Caroline Ewing Bouvier. Young Caroline inspired singer-songwriter Neil Diamond to write his hit song “Sweet Caroline,” first released in 1969.
This hand pieced and hand quilted Hexagon Star quilt made of silk, cotton and wool fibers was made by Caroline Middleton of Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1877. The quilt was documented during the Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey and the provenance of the quilt is noted as “a family made Quaker quilt.”
On this day in 1862, mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewiss Carroll) sent 10-year-old Alice Liddell a handwritten manuscript called “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Alice and her siblings, the children of one of Dodgson’s colleagues, loved to hear Dodgeson’s stories and insisted that he write them down.
This quilt was made by Susan Poliquin of Schertz, Texas for the Quilt Alliance’s 2012 “Home Is Where the Quilt Is” contest. Poliquin’s artist’s statement: “Throughout my childhood I remember reading fairy tales. Reading them had a way of taking me to another land and allowing me to become a part of something unearthly. It spurred my imagination and helped develop my creativity. Over the year, as adulthood and responsibilities set in, I got away from this. It was nice to revisit that part of my life, if only for a short time, through the making of this quilt.”
On this day in 1936, postmodern dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown was born in Aberdeen, Washington. Brown founded the avant-garde Judson Dance Theater in 1962. She has collaborated with artists Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson, including the piece “If you couldn’t see me” (1984) danced entirely with her back to the audience. Brown was the first female choreographer to receive the coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “Genius Award.”
Barbara Kilbourn of Ann Arbor, Michigan made this 42” x 42” quilt, titled “The Dance,” in 1996 for the American Quilters Society Show in Paducah, Kentucky. The quilt is Kilbourn’s original design and was machine pieced and appliqued and machine quilted. Kilbourn documented the quilt as part of the Michigan Quilt Project.
On this day in 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States was assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President (at age 43) and the youngest to die in office (at age 46). J.F.K.’s favorite hobbies were sailing, swimming and football and among his favorite pets were ponies.
Retta Booher Holland of Grand Prairie, Texas (fifteen miles west of Dallas) pieced this Crossed Canoes quilt in 1957. Holland purchased the scraps for the quilt from a dress factory near her home for $1. Her daughter, Kathleen Holland McCrady, did the quilting and said about her mother:
“She worked hard all her life, and perhaps enjoyed most the part of her life after they [she and her husband] retired from the cafe business. She sewed for others and worked in her church keeping the babies in the nursery. She was always busy, seemed happy with her lot in life, and made the best of her situation. She had 17 grandchildren.”
The quilt was documented during the Texas Quilt Search Project and is included in the book Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, Vol. II, 1936-1986, by Karoline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.) It was included in an exhibition by the same name at the International Quilt Festival, in Houston, Texas in November, 1990. Additional information about Retta Booher Holland and her daughter Kathleen McCrady can be found in Kathleen H. McCrady, My Journey with Quilts: Over 70 Years of Quiltmaking 1932-2003 (Austin: 2005).
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.
Michael Cummings of New York City machine appliqued this 96” x 68” quilt, titled “African Jazz Series #10,” in 1990. The quilt was included in the 1992 exhibition, “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt: Always There – The African American Presence in American Quilts” in Louisville, Kentucky. It was documented as part of the Kentucky Quilt Project.
See more of Cummings’ Jazz Series here.
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.