Arts & Culture

Sewing the Seeds of History

A quilt exhibit in Kentucky honors groundbreaking American women

The colors, textures, and styles of the 107 quilts in the HERstory exhibit at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah (through April 9) are a patchwork achievement by fiber artists from seven countries who celebrate groundbreaking women, honoring them in fabric. “Some feature portrait likenesses of famous females as the focus,” says Susanne M. Jones, a quilter from Potomac Falls, Virginia, who curated the exhibit. “Others spotlight the woman in a more symbolic way or tell a story.” 

See a selection of quilts from the display here.

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“Jackie” by Susan Lenz, Columbia, South Carolina.

“Field of Hope: Lady Bird Johnson” by Sarah Entsminger, Ashburn, Virginia.

“Texas Governor Ann Richards” by Teresa Bristow, Springfield, Virginia.

“Barbara Jordan” by Julie Hallquist, Tucson, Arizona.

“Liberté de l’air: Bessie Coleman” by Ricki S. Selva, Fort Myer, Virginia.

“Taking Flight: My Great Aunts” by Debra B. Goley, Goodyear, Arizona.

“Ride Sally Ride” by Deb Berkebile, Conneaut, Ohio.

“May I Take Off My Hat? Yvonne Porcella” by Susanne M. Jones, Potomac Falls, Virginia.

“Mary Colter: Builder on the Desert” by Karen G. Fisher, Tucson, Arizona.

“Brave Betty: Betty Ford” by Janet A. Marney, Fairfax, Virginia.

“Rosalynn Carter Explains to the Senate” by Luana D. Rubin, Boulder, Colorado.

“It All Started on a Bus: Rosa Parks” by Carole A. Nicholas, Oakton, Virginia.

“Jane Goodall” by Kaylea Daubenspeck, Sherman, Texas.

“To Play One or To Be One, That is the Question! (Hattie McDaniel)” by Nneka Gamble, Victoria, Texas.

“Oprah Winfrey: Overcoming and Conquering” by Leo Ransom, Sherman, Texas. 

Exhibit curator Susanne M. Jones’s own quilt included black-and-white images of the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, printed on filmy organza that fills an outline of Alabama. In the center of her creation, Jones thread-sketched a portrait of her mother-in-law, Marna Williams, surrounded by raw-edged appliqué vignettes of Williams’s civil rights work in 1960s Birmingham. “She is not well known,” Jones says. “But she was my hero.”

HERStory Quilts: A Celebration of Strong Women is on display at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, through April 9, 2019.