Tag Archives: Portrait Quilts

Suffragette Movement: Lucy Burns on Women’s Work

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

Lucy Burns on the quilt Women's Work, stands in the foreground holding a sign in front of her that reads "Votes for Women". She wears a white dress with a blue stripe sailor collar.

Lucy Burns, voting rights activist.

Lucy Burns, a key figure in the Suffragette Movement, appears on the Women’s Work Quilt at the very front, holding a large protest sign that reads, “VOTES FOR WOMEN”.  She was a dynamic force in the National Women’s Party.  Her courage and sacrifice helped lead to the passage of the 19th amendment.

An Apt Scholar

 Lucy was born in Brooklyn, New York into an Irish Catholic family in 1879. She had a quick mind, an engaging spirit, and a gift for language.  After attending Packer Collegiate Institute where she received instruction in social graces and religion, Lucy went on to study at Columbia University, Vassar College, and Yale University.  She earned a teaching degree and taught English at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn for two years, but had a strong desire to continue her own studies. She was lucky to have a father who encouraged, and financed her education.  Lucy headed abroad to study at the University of Berlin in Germany, and Oxford University in England.  She used her linguistic skills to charm audiences with her spoken, and written words. 

Trading Education for Experience in the Suffragette Movement

In England, Lucy learned about the suffragette movement.  She abandoned her studies and took up the cause.  Lucy practiced her skills and became an eloquent “Street Speaker” who was arrested four times for being a public nuisance.  While in jail, she met and became good friends with another American, Alice Paul.

Together, they brought the militant tactics they had learned in England to the suffragette movement in the US. However, as members of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, they were impatient with progress and split to form a new group that eventually became the National Women’s Party (NWP).

The Suffragette Movement: Silent Sentinels at the White House

suffragette movement deploys women to line up in front of White House to pressure Pres. Wilson to support 19th amendment inspired the presentation of Lucy on the Women's Work quilt holding a picket sign.

Silent Sentinels picket the White House

Suffragette Movement Women hold large banner on display when dignitaries visit.

Large banners for special visits.

Lucy organized protests and edited The Suffragist, a weekly NWP journal.  A key player in organizing the “Silent Sentinels”, Lucy oversaw more than 1000 women who picketed in front of the White House during the Wilson administration.  When important dignitaries visited the President, Lucy made sure that extra large banners with messages such as, “America is not a free democracy as long as women were denied the right to vote.” we’re prominently on display.

Woodrow Wilson found the protests irritating.  In a letter to his daughter he wrote  that these women “seem bent on making their cause as obnoxious as possible.” He also encouraged the police to crack down on the demonstrators.  Police brutality increased, and they began arresting the women for charges such as “obstructing passage on the sidewalk.”

Lucy Burns was taken to this three story stone building, along with other suffragettes, in paddy wagons.

Suffragettes taken to prison for protesting at White House.

Officers took the women to the Occoquan Workhouse, outside of Washington, DC.  Conditions were dire.  There were maggots in the food, the water was dirty, and the bedding was filthy.   Arrested six times, Lucy never backed down.  She led a hunger strike within the jail.  For this, the warden put her in solitary confinement. She persisted, and he initiated forced feedings. This was a brutal practice that involved strapping the victim to a chair and shoving a tube down her throat.  As time passed, the sentences increased in length, and the brutality worsened.

 Suffragette Movement and The Night of Terror

The most brutal events occurred on November 14, 1917.  Thirty-three women, who had been

Lucy Burns sits before a jail cell door possibly holding newspaper containing published account of the Night of Terror.

Lucy Burns in Occoquan prison

peacefully protesting, were arrested and brought to Occoquan.  They demanded to be treated as political prisoners.  Exasperated, the Prison Superintendent instructed his guards to teach the women a lesson.  They drug the women down a hall and threw them into dark, dirty cells. Through the night, the women were beaten and tortured.  Guards threw them against iron beds and benches until some lost consciousness.  They cuffed Lucy’s hands to the top of her cell door so that she was forced to stand through the night.  One woman, witnessing the violence, had a heart attack, but was denied medical treatment until the following morning.  By that time, she had died.

Lucy kept a diary of her experiences in the jail, and others shared their stories.  Published accounts of what became known as “The Night of Terror”

Suffragette movement gains public support as Lucy Burns and others were finally released from Occoquan. One women helps another, wrapped in a blanket, as they walk away from Occoquan prison

Prisoners released from Occoquan.

prompted public outrage.  The Prison Superintendent, under pressure released the women. Eventually, the women received pardons on all charges  With public sentiment now on their side, this night became a turning point in the campaign for the 19th amendment.

After passage of the 19th amendment, Lucy withdrew from prominence in the suffrage movement, and she performed charity work for the Catholic Church until her death in 1966.

My Personal Take Away…

The courage and determination these women determined to gainthe right to vote astounds me.  Even more, the brutality of the opposition startles me.  In the present day, I know that my right to vote is now secure, but I’m also aware that the voting rights of other US citizens is at risk.  Just as others fought for me, I feel compelled to fight for equal treatment of all citizens.  However, we live in strange times where truth and fairness are under assault.  I’m left wondering:  What am I willing to endure? and,  When the time comes, will I make the necessary sacrifices in the name of justice? 

What about the Workhouse?

The Occoquan Workhouse has been converted into the Workhouse Arts Center. It now offers over 800 arts education classes and workshops in a broad spectrum of art disciplines.  Each year the Workhouse Arts Center provides more than 100 exhibitions, 300 performances, and it hosts multiple large-scale community events for the region. The Arts Center also houses The Lucy Burns Museum.

The Workhouse Arts Center is located at:  9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA 22079.  If you can’t visit the museum in person, visit the website.  Hear the words of the suffragettes read aloud by museum staff from the original diaries and writings: 

See the Women’s Work Quilt

Lucy Burns appears on Women’s Work holding a picket sign as she might have done in front of the White House.  The Women’s Work Quilt will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website.

Learn More About Lucy Burns and Women’s Work…

Lucy Burns Museum.  https://www.workhousearts.org/lucyburnsmuseum/

Nappier,  Terri   (August 17, 2020). Of Prison Cells and Suffrage. The Source: Washington Magazine. University of Washington in St. Louis.  https://source.wustl.edu/2020/08/of-prison-cells-and-suffrage/

Pruitt, Sarah, (4/17/19). The Night of Terror: When Suffragists Were Imprisoned and Tortured in 1917.  https://www.history.com/news/night-terror-brutality-suffragists-19th-amendment

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Alice Paul on Women’s Work

You can find Alice Paul (1885-1977)  on Women’s Work, standing tall as one of the three central figures on  the quilt.  They are the Visionaries, at the top of the stairs.  She holds out a glass to toast passage of the 19th Amendment. Immediately following, she began to write the Equal Rights Amendment.

Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, and Hillary Clinton stand together at center of quilt.

Three central figures on Women’s Work represent The Visionaries.

Suffragette from an Early Age

Alice was born on January 11, 1885 in Mount Laurel, New Jersey into an affluent Quaker family.  As Quakers, her parents believed in working to improve society on many fronts.  Alice was enlisted to the fight for women’s rights from an early age. Her mother was a suffragist, and frequently brought Alice with her to meetings and events.

Formal and Informal Education

With a strong family commitment to the education of women, Alice had excellent schooling opportunities.  She attended Swathmore College where she earned a degree in Biology in 1905.  She then earned a Master’s degree in Sociology from New York School of Philanthropy College (now Columbia University) in 1907.  Next, Alice took 3 years to travel in England and study their system of social work before returning to the US to earn a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910.

While in England, Alice met Lucy Burns, another American. The two friends joined the women’s suffrage movement in England, a movement that was much more radical and aggressive than in the US.  Eventually, Alice and Lucy brought the militant tactics they learned in England back home to the states.  Alice learned about protests and hunger strikes, and how to use the media to generate publicity and support.

Bringing the Fight to Washington

In 1912, Alice joined the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), a group dedicated to establishing the right to vote for women in the US.  This group, however, focused on earning the right to vote in individual states.  Alice strongly disagreed with this approach, broke away, and started the National Women’s Party (NWP).  Her group focused efforts directly on Congress and demanded a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

Women marching in Washington, DC, to demand right to vote.

Women’s March in Washington, DC on March 3, 1913.

In 1913, Alice helped organize a march on Washington, held March 3, the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.  Nearly 8000 women marched down Pennsylvania Ave. with banners and floats demanding the right to vote.  After inaugruation, President Wilson refused to meet with Alice and members of the NWP.  Instead, he insisted that it was not yet time for a constitutional amendment.  The fight continued.

The Silent Sentinels

In  January 1917, Alice helped organize the Silent Sentinels,” a group of over 1000 women who Femal protestor stands before gate of the White House with banner that says, "Mr. President, How long must women wait for liberty"picketed in front of the White House for 18 months.  Each day, women would stand at the gates with sign that read “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” and “Kaiser Wilson”. The women endured harsh weather conditions, as well as, verbal and physical attacks from onlookers.  Rather than protect their right to free speech, police, beat and arrested the protesters on trumped up charges of obstructing traffic.  

In the face of police brutality, Alice remained fierce.  When she was sentenced to 7 months in jail, Alice organized a hunger strike.  Doctors were brought in to force feed her.  This involved strapping her to a chair, holding her head back, shoving a tube down her throat. Doctors also threatened to declare her insane and send her to an asylum.

Young woman stands holding banner that reads, "We Demand that the American Government Give Alice Paul, a political offender, the privileges Russia gave Miyukoff

Suffragette demands fair treatment for Alice Paul

Newspaper accounts of the treatment the women were enduring in prison prompted public sympathy and support for the cause.  Finally, in 1918, President Wilson publicly announced his support for the suffrage movement.  

The 19th Amendment

Passing the 19th amendment remained a slow process.  Once taken up by the Congress,  the Senate and the House of Representatives must approve the amendment, and then at least 36 states must ratify it.  This took almost 2 years. but the 19th amendment was finally adopted as part of the US Constitution on August 26, 1920. Alice Paul on Women’s Work holds up a glass to toast the passage of the amendment. It was actually a glass of grape juice, as Alice was against drinking alcohol.

Alice sits at table sewing a star to a banner for each state that ratifies the 19th amendment.

Alice and NWP members sew stars on ratification banner.

Alice Paul stands on balcony with star banner hanging down. Many women standing on ground below looking up.

The Star banner unfurled to mark 19th Amendment ratification

What about the Equal Rights Amendment…

Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alice immediately turned her attention to the Equal Rights Amendment. After all, with its latest amendment, the Constitution guaranteed  women the right to vote; nothing more.  The ERA guaranteed equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It would end distinctions between men and women in cases of divorce, property ownership, working conditions, pay, and a host of other issues.  Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman introduced the ERA to Congress in December 1923. The bill languished for many years until it gained massive support in the 1960’s.  The ERA was passed by Congress and the Senate in 1972.  By 1977 only 35, of the required 38 states had ratified the amendment.  Alice Paul died in 1977, knowing the amendment, while close at hand, was not yet a reality.

My Personal Take Away

Alice Paul stands on Women’s Work as she stood her entire life, committed to equality for women, in fact, all American citizens. I’m struck by her unwavering dedication to the cause, and what she was able to accomplish as a result.  I’m in a period in my own life where I feel constantly distracted from the task at hand by frivolous videos, news reports, ads for things I don’t really need. In my studio,  I’m hanging a photo of Alice Paul holding up a glass as a reminder to focus on what is important, and to turn off the rest of the noise.

See the Women’s Work Quilt

Women’s Work will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website.

Learn More About Alice Paul

Michals, Debra.  “Alice Paul.”  National Women’s History Museum.  2015.  www.womenshistorymuseum.org/education-resources/biographies/alice-paul. 

“The Nineteenth Amendment: A Crash Course.” National Park Service website. 2020.  https://www.nps.gov/articles/2020-crash-course.htm

History.com editors (2/8/2021). “Alice Paul.” A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/alice-paul

Kathryn Elizabeth Colohan, Jill S. and Krista Joy Niles (2018). “ERA History” Alice Paul Institute. https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/history

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Shirley Chisolm fabric portrait from Women's Work quilt, front view, wearing lime green dress.

Shirley Chisholm on Women’s Work

Shirley Chisolm fabric portrait from Women's Work quilt, front view, wearing lime green dress, walking down stairs among protestors and legislators

Shirley Chisholm on Women’s Work

Shirley Chisholm(1924-2005) on WOMEN’S WORK, is located at the bottom of the stairs,  wearing a lime green dress.  She is situated between legislators and demonstrators marching forward down the stairs.  Shirley, known as a courageous, and tireless champion for the poor and working class, is famous as the first black woman to serve in Congress.  She was also the first black female presidential candidate from a majority political party. 

Fierce Advocate

Born Shirley Anita St Hill on November  30, 1924 to  Caribbean Immigrants from British Guyana and Barbados, her father was a factory laborer, and her mother was a domestic worker and seamstress.  The family lived in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Believing it would provide a safer environment, Shirley’s parents sent her and three younger sisters to live with their grandmother on the island of Barbados. The girls lived there for about 7 years.  Shirley attributes much of her success to the early education she received in the traditional British school system of Barbados.  Upon her return to New York City at the age of 10, she performed well in the integrated, but mostly white classrooms.  

After high school, Shirley earned a Bachelor of Arts at Brooklyn College where she also won awards for debate.  Then, she worked in an early child care center, married Conrad Chisholm, and earned her Masters in Elementary Education from Columbia University. She worked her way up to director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center in the 1950’s, and became an educational consultant to New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959 to 1964. 

Shirley learned to fight for social justice in her teens from her father who was an active member of a labor trade union.  Her confidence, speaking skills, and grit made her an effective advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and workers rights.  She was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1965, and became the first black woman elected to the US House of Representatives in 1968.  She served her constituents as a fierce, and vocal legislator. 

Unbossed & Unbought

Shirley’s campaign slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” was an apt description.  At first, Shirley

was appointed to the Agriculture Committee.  This was the result of efforts by Southern

congressmen to put her in a place where she would have little influence or power.  Angered, she waged a campaign to be reassigned.  This was unheard-of since freshmen representatives were expected to follow the rules without complaint.  In the end, Shirley got her way, but not before she found a silver lining in agriculture.  In the late 1960’s farmers in the midwest had surplus food that they couldn’t sell.  Shirley teamed with Senator Bob Dole from Kansas and, together, they started what would become the Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to provide food supplements to at-risk women and their infants.

Long desk with 3 black male legislators and Shirley Chisholm sitting behind

Congressional Black Caucus.

During her seven terms in Congress, Shirley successfully helped pass numerous pieces of legislation that gave voice and power to those who were ignored by the government.  She opposed the VietNam War and fought to reduce military spending in favor of increasing funds for domestic social programs. She pushed through legislation that expanded funding for day care and education, and expanded minimum wage protections for domestic workers. In support of women, Shirley hired only females to work in her congressional office, and half of her staff were black.

Presidential Run

Finally, in 1972, Shirley decided to run for President as the Democratic candidate. She became

campaign poster with words Vote for Chisholm, Unbossed and Unbought. Shows image of Shirley Chisholm speaking

Campaign Poster

the first black candidate from a major party, and the first woman Democratic party candidate.  A major obstacle for her campaign, were the black male colleagues within the party.  Shirley claimed that she faced more discrimination for being a woman, than for being black. Winning the nomination was a long shot, but, Shirley hoped to amass enough support to be able to influence the party platform. She planned to demand a black vice-presidential candidate, and insist on diversity in cabinet, and agency appointments.

Shirley invited all to “Join me on the Chisholm Trail” as she campaigned across the country on a shoe-string budget, and heavy reliance on volunteers. Her policy positions included support for:

  • Anti-poverty legislation

    Shirley Chisholm behind lecture, speaking at convention

    Shirley speak at Democratic Nat’l Convention

  • Ending the VietNam war
  • Abortion rights
  • Gay rights
  • National health insurance
  • Legalization of marijuana
  • Fair housing laws
  • Busing as a temporary means to desegregate schools

Shirley built a broad coalition of supporters, but, she did not win the nomination. She did, however, come in 4th in a field of 15 candidates at the Democratic Convention.  She inspired women worldwide, and was voted as one of the 10 most admired women in the world.  After the election, Shirley returned to Congress where she served another 10 years.  In retirement, she remained involved in many political organizations, spoke at colleges to encourage student activism, and continued to fight for women’s rights.  

What about those demands at the convention…

In her run for president, Shirley hoped to gain the clout to demand a black vice presidential running mate, and diversity in cabinet and agency appointments.  That was in 1972.  Not until the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020, nearly 50 years later, did those demands became a reality.  At the inauguration ceremony, Harris wore purple as a tribute to Shirley Chisholm whose campaign colors were purple and yellow.

My take away…

The pace of equality is much too slow.  In researching Shirley Chisholm, I must confront the question, “What are you doing about it?”.

As a high school teacher, I work with many students from marginalized groups: young women and children of immigrants.  They often do not have a family history of education or activism, so, I try to plant those seeds.  I challenge students to be the first in their families to graduate from high school, to set a goal of attending college, and to register to vote. These steps can change the path of an entire family for years to come.

girl standing, inserting ballot into collection box outside in snow storm

1st Time Voting

In the 2020 election, a former student contacted me because she wanted to vote.  She didn’t know how, and no one she knew had ever voted in a US election.  Over the phone, I talked her through the registration process.  When her ballot arrived, I explained each of the issues, and shared a booklet from the state voting commission with more information.  After talking her through marking and sealing her ballot, I drove her to the drop-off site and told her, “Next time, bring two friends and we’ll do this again.”

See the Women’s Work Quilt

See Ida B Wells on Women’s Work in person. This quilt will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website. Follow this blog for more stories of amazing women. Follow this link to see more of Lea’s Portrait Quilts.

Learn More About Shirley Chisholm…

Michals, Debra.  “Shirley Chisholm.”  National Women’s History Museum.  2015.  www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/shirley-chisholm. 

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, ““Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm,” https://history.house.gov/Blog/2020/September/9-14-Chisholm-1972/(January 30, 2021)

Shirley Chisholm: First African American Congresswoman (March 31, 2020).  Timeline-World History Documentaries.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz-dfJIprkY

Shirley Chisholm Biography, Encyclopedia of World Biography, (January 30, 2021). https://www.notablebiographies.com/Ch-Co/Chisholm-Shirley.html

Dovid Zaklikowsk (January 20, 2021)  Turning Disappointment Into Food for the Hungry. The Rebbe.org. https://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/558041/jewish/Turning-Disappointment-Into-Food-for-the-Hungry.htm

History.com Editors (December 10, 2020). Shirley Chisholm. A&E Television Networks.  https://www.history.com/topics/us-politics/shirley-chisholm

 

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Ida B Wells portrait in fabric on the quilt Women's Work. Ida is wearing orange dress typical of 1940's. Her hair is in a know on top of her head. She is arm in arm with Gloria Steinem

Ida B. Wells on Women’s Work

Ida B. Wells (1862–1931appears on Women’s Work on the main level of the quilt, walking arm in arm with Gloria Steinem.  She is included because of her contributions as a journalist, and is notable for her investigative reporting on lynching in America.

Ida was born to slave patents in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862.  However, at the age of 6 months, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.  Following the civil war, her parents were active in Reconstruction.  Her father joined the Freedman’s Aid Society and helped star

head and shoulders sketch of Ida B Wells, circa 1940.

Journalist, Ida B Wells. Circa 1940.

t Shaw University.  This school for newly freed slaves is where Ida received her early schooling.

At age of 16, Ida lost both parents and an infant brother in a Yellow Fever outbreak.  As the oldest, she had to care for younger brothers and sisters. So, she convinced a local school administrator that she was 18 and was hired as a teacher. Over the next few years, Ida arranged for her brothers to work as carpenter apprentices, and moved her sisters to live with an aunt in Memphis, Tennessee.  Ida returned to college and honed her journalistic skills at Fisk University and continued to work as a teacher.

Injustice in the South

In 1884, Ida bought a first class train ticket in Memphis. She boarded the train, but was denied a seat in first class.  The conductor told to sit in the car reserved for blacks.  Ida refused and an argument ensued.  The conductor and fellow passengers forcibly removed her from the train.  Ida sued the train company and won a $500 settlement in a circuit court.  On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling, and charged Ida for court fees.  Outraged, she channeled her energy into several editorial articles published in black newspapers.  Using the pseudonym “Iona,” she criticized Jim Crow laws and treatment of blacks in the south.  Eventually, Ida owned and published her own newspaper, Free Speech, in Memphis.

In 1892, three balck men opened a grocery store in Memphis.  Their success drew customers from the white owned store across the street. One night, a group of white men gathered to vandalize the store.  In defending the shop, several white men were shot and injured.  Officials arrested the black store owners.  Later that evening, a white mob took them from their cells and hung them.

Investigation of Lynching

Outraged by the death of her friends, Ida carried out her own investigation of

Cover of book The Red Record by Ida B Wells, showing image of a lynching party.

The Red Record, documents lynching in America

lynching in the South. First, she published her findings in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors. Later, she traveled to give lectures and wrote a book, A Red Record, detailing the treatment of blacks in the south.   She documented the practice of lynching black men who challenged the authority of whites, or dared to be successful in politics, or business. Using her words, she effectively painted a picture of conditions for blacks in the South.  In a speech she delivered in Boston on February 13, 1893, Ida reported, 

…since invested with citizenship, the race has been indicted for ignorance, immorality and general worthlessness declared guilty and executed by its self constituted judges. The operations of law do not dispose of negroes fast enough, and lynching bees have become the favorite pastime of the South.

The brutal honesty of her reporting angered whites who descended on her newspaper office, destroyed the presses,   The mob proved her words correct when they threatened to kill her if she returned to Memphis.  Ida escaped to England where she continued her anit-lynching campaign, and brought international attention to racial injustice in America.

In 1895, Ida returned to the US, settled in Chicago, and married Ferdinand Barnett, a lawyer and newspaper editor. Together, they raised 4 children and continued to fight social injustice on many fronts. Ida was active in several social justice issues, including women’s suffrage, and equal education for blacks.  She was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ida continued to write and lecture in the US, and abroad, until her death in 1931.

The False Characterization

Ida’s investigative reporting  uncovered a common justification for lynching. Whites  justified the murder of black men with the assertion that those men would sexually assault white women. Essentially, whites believed that lynching was necessary to protect the virtue of their wives and daughters. 

It is important to note here, that multiple sources, over many decades, consistently show that sexual violence data, disaggregated by race, shows that perpetrators are most likely to be white. In fact, sexual violence by whites occurs at a level of more than double that of blacks. For current statistics visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website: RAINN.org.

My personal take away…

The research for Ida B Wells on Women’s Work led me to a startling realization.  The false notion that black men are inherently “dangerous” exists in my own consciousness. Growing up in a white suburb of Kansas City, I had very few interactions with blacks, so how did I learn this? Upon reflection, I realized that the lessons were part of my growing up. For example, when my family drove into the city, through predominantly black sections of town, my parents instructed us to lock our doors. Now, in my 50’s, I’m adamant that I’m not racist.  However, driving through Denver, the thought that I should lock my car door sometimes pops into my mind.  Those irrational ideas still echo in my head.  Because I’m aware, I will stop it, and I’ll speak up when others perpetuate that idea.

See the Women’s Work Quilt

See Ida B Wells on Women’s Work in person. This quilt will  debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website. Follow this blog for more stories of amazing women. Follow this link to see more of Lea’s Portrait Quilts.

Learn more about Ida B. Wells…

Biography.com Editors (2020, June 24). Ida B. Wells Biography. A&E Television Networks and the Biography.com website. https://www.biography.com/activist/ida-b-wells

Norwood, Arlisha (2017). Ida B. Wells-Barnett. National Women’s History Museum.  www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ida-wells-barnett.

Steptoe, T. (2007, January 19) Ida Wells-Barnett (1862-1931). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/barnett-ida-wells-1862-1931/ 

Editors of BlackPast.org (2007, January 29). Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law In All Its Phases” transcript of speech delivered at Boston’s Tremont Temple on February 13, 1893,as published in Our Day magazine, May 1893.  BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/uncategorized/1893-ida-b-wells-lynch-law-all-its-phases/ 

Ida B Wells, The Red Record Lynching in the United States. Available free through pdfbooksworld.com. https://www.pdfbooksworld.com/The-Red-Record-by-Ida-B-Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett, Ida B., “Southern horrors : lynch law in all its phases,” Digital Public Library of America, http://dp.la/item/3f4d5d3a67f8ce16f1b00b3cb01dc143

Ida B. Wells, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. , None. [Between 1940 and 1960?] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2009633545/.

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Women's Work by moonlight

Women’s Work: When Will It End?!?

Women’s Work, a masterwork that has consumed, and fed, my artistic spirit for the last year and half, may finally be coming to an end.  This journey started in September 2019, when I was approached by a representative from the Clinton Foundation about creating an art quilt for Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights.  This is an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the US.  Originally scheduled to open at the Clinton Presidential Library in September 2020, COVID-19 delayed the opening 1 year.  Not to diminish the devastating effects of this virus, but isolating at home gave me the opportunity to create the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted.

What do you want to do?

This question stopped me in my tracks.  Initially, I couldn’t decide on a single person or event to celebrate in my work; there are just too many options.  The more I researched, the more difficult the decision became. Finally, inspired by Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, I realized that I could create a piece celebrating the work of dozens of women whose voices and deeds have contributed to the fight for women’s votes, rights, and equality.

Inspiration for Women's Work

Raphael’s painting titled School of Athens.

My vision:

In my mind, I saw a gathering of women representing a variety of time periods and vocations, and gifts. I would group them by theme to demonstrate how women’s work has progressed through the centuries, with each generation building on the progress of the previous.

Now, this was a bold, big idea, and big ideas need big space, so I decided to make the piece 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall.  The unintended consequences of this decision are fodder for a  future blog post titled “Bloopers and Blunders”.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Having a vision for Women’s Work, and knowing how to bring that vision to fruition are two very different things.  My progress stalled as I just couldn’t decide what to do next. The project was enormous; something like eating an elephant.

One Bite at a Time.

Women's work: Lea drawing a life-size pattern of the quilt

Drawing the pattern

Finally, in November 2019, this vision took off in 2 directions. First, create an appropriate setting

for the composition. Second, choose the women to be represented in the quilt.  The project started to disaggregate into bite size pieces, and I found a way forward.  Hungry for progress, I began to devour the tasks.

On physically active days, I drew a life-sized pattern and built structures from fabric.  I discovered that organza made a great glass ceiling, as pillars morphed into caryatids. All the while, insufficient amounts of fabric prompted creative design decisions.

Women's Work: progress photo shows entry, steps, floor, wing walls, glass ceiling, pediment carving and distant sky

Distant sky is creative solution when there is not enough fabric.

Women's Work: shows first 2 phases of creating building setting of the pictorial quilt.

Glass ceiling and marble floor.

 

 

 

 

 

Women's Work in progress: working out statuary.

Working out statuary with paper versions.

On mentally active days, I researched women and their achievements. Going “old school”, I

Lea doing research for Women's Work

Lea, conducting research for Women’s Work

wrote information about each woman on a 3×5 notecards.  Over and over, I laid them out, rearranged,, stacked, and paper clipped them.

Now, with Women’s Work is nearly complete, I’m impatient to share what I have done. Please, subscribe to this blog to get the full story. (A pop up window will appear when you leave this page.)  In the months to come, I’ll share essays about the women who are depicted in the work, (there are more than 50) and tell you more stories about how the quilt was made. Later, when the conditions are right, I invite you will join me to see the quilt in person.

Women's Work by moonlight

Solo exhibit in the time of COVID

 

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And Now, A Word From My Student

Life has been crazy busy for the last year, leaving precious little time to blog, so I’ll let one of my students from the Festival of Quilts 2019, Birmingham, England, tell you about her experience.  Take it away, Kim…

Having been quilting for a number of years I wanted to expand my skills and fancied having a go at a portrait quilt.  At school I was useless at art – drawing – so my confidence level was really low. I wasn’t sure that I could do it but really wanted to have a go – do you know what I mean?

Looking through the Workshop list for the Festival of Quilts in August 2019 I saw a portrait quilting course by Lea McComas.  Biting the bullet, I booked a place with severe trepidation. The course list duly arrived, and I began to feel really nervous.  What if the tutor laughed at my failing skills? What if everyone else was so much better than me?  

Putting on my Big Girl Pants I went along to the course. 

Other participants were working on portraits of dogs, grandchildren, husbands, children friends etc.  I had chosen to work on a portrait of my long-time idol – Donny Osmond (Husband and Dog assured me that they were not jealous at all)

So I spent a glorious two whole days working on my portrait, Lea being the most marvellous tutor.  I will never forget bringing the portrait to life by adding the white of his eye. Obviously two days isn’t long enough to complete a portrait so there was some homework to do and slowly, slowly I plucked up courage to continue my project with lots of encouragement from Lea.

In October I went to London where I met Donny and showed him my quilt so far.  I cannot tell you what he said about it as I was quite literally a gibbering wreck.  I managed to get him to sign my label too.

Lea I want to thank you for your expert tuition, encouragement and friendship.  To those of you who may not have done a course with Lea I really encourage you to do so – you will really learn a lot and expand your skill set.

Thank you Lea.

Kim Wood UK

Here is Kim with her Donny quilt.  Some think it looks like she printed the image, but NO.  This is a fused appliqué portrait.  Want to learn to make your own?  Take my online portrait quilt class. 

 

 

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Time for a New Pet Portrait: Got Kibble?

Upcoming Exhibition

Yes, I’ve actually found time to create new original artwork this summer.  The last several

Lea at the Creative Framing Art Gallery

I’ll be in good company

months have been packed with travel, teaching, and the Border Wall Quilt Project, but I’ve still carved out some time to focus on several new works of art, including a new pet portrait.  I’ll be a featured artist at the Creative Framing Art Gallery in Louisville, CO in the months of September-October, and these new pieces will be fully revealed at that time. If your in the area, please save the date: Sep. 7, 2018 for the opening reception, 6-9 PM.  

New Pet Portrait in the Dog’s Life Series

For now, let me share a sneak preview of what’s to come. . . .

Background detail of Got Kibble?

Some of my hand dyed fabric in the background

Face detail of Got Kibble?

Detail of dog

I often find inspiration from my students as I travel and teach.  In Ft. Collins, CO a student shared a photo of her, “Crazy dog!”  I had to agree, he looked pretty crazy, but also endearing.  With her permission, I’ve done a new, larger than life, pet portrait.

I find that animal portraits don’t demand the same level of precision as portraits of people. This is just one more way that animals are more forgiving than humans.  In this piece, the fabric does a lot of the work.  The edges are raw and fuzzy and add a bit of dimension.  I’ve done less thread-painting to keep those edges visible. It’s more like thread-sketching, and it’s great fun when you have to balance a new work with another new project that has a steep learning curve and lots of moving parts.

Plan to come and see this piece in person.  Come to the reception and see me in person, too.

Border Wall Quilt Project: Section 3 Under Construction

OH, and that other new project is the Border Wall Quilt Project.  Follow the link or follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see photos of the individual bricks and the process.  There is still time to register and submit your own bricks.  

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Artistic Opportunities: Border Wall & Portrait Quilts

Artistic Opportunities Take Many Forms

 As school draws to a close, my teaching responsibilities at Boulder High School give way to summer break. I’m gearing up for a fabulous summer of art. The possibilities are exciting and I’m hoping my fiber art friends will join me.

Artistic Opportunity: Be a Small Part of Something Big

First, are you like me? Worried about the discord and division that seems to be growing in the US. We have many important issues to address. Yet, we seem to struggle with the civil discourse needed to work our way to meaningful solutions.

The US/Mexico Border Wall is just one of these issues, but one that I want to tackle. I’m sponsoring the Border Wall Quilt Project; an art installation made of quilted bricks. I’m going to make the wall, but I need help with the bricks.  If this is an issue of concern for you, I hope you will join in.

 I’m calling on quilters to create 8×16 inch mini-quilts expressing their ideas, concerns, and opinions about the border wall and then send them to me. Anyone can submit up to 3 quilted bricks.  This isn’t a juried exhibition.  I intend to use all bricks submitted to create a wall about the wall.   Interested? Read More

Follow the progress at BorderWallQuiltProject.com

Artistic Opportunity: Portraits in Colorado

sign up for a workshop at eQuilter.com

Next, quilting and Thread-Painting people have been my art focus for many years now.  It’s my passion and I’m taking it to some pretty interesting locations this summer.

I’m pairing up with eQuilter.com to offer two workshops in my own backyard.  eQuilter.com is located right there in Boulder, Colorado and they are offering 2 workshops in their magnificent classroom space:  Thread-Painted Portraits, July 16-17, and Appliqué Portrait Quilts, July19-20

Visit eQuilter.com for more information.

Artistic Opportunities Around the Country

Finally, if you can’t make it to Colorado, look for me in these locations:

Spring Tea with the Loomis Quilt & Fiber Guild, Loomis, CA, May 5, 2018

North Carolina Quilt Symposium, Asheville, NC, May 31-June 3

Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society Getaway, Cave City, KY, June 13-15

 

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I Use Pets to Inspire Others, and Inspired Myself

Pet Portraits

We love our pets, don’t we??  Two years ago we made a frantic, late-night trip to the emergency pet clinic.  Three hours later, we came home without our precious Gretchen.  It was devastating.  That’s why I jumped at the chance this winter to put together a class where my portrait techniques are applied to Pet Portrait Memory Quilts.

I’m a dog person with lots of dog pictures.  However, in this class I wanted to address pet portraits for a variety of animals: cats, birds, horses, in addition to dogs.  So, I put out the call for precious pet photos to my friends and colleagues and found myself with many more great photos than I was able to use for the class.

I made some adorable samples for the course.  A few of them are included in this post.  As you can see, for these, I simplified the compositions.  I did this to teach the techniques and focus on specific art concepts. I’m hoping that students will learn the lessons and then apply them to more complex compositions.

I Inspired Myself

More complex compositions:  now that sounds like advice I should follow myself.  So, I went back through the photos and set aside a few more images for a new series.  The exciting thing for me is that these new compositions will include more context and will tell a larger story.  I’ve chosen some images that address the reasons we have and cherish our pets: loyalty, companionship, comic relief. . .

Last year, I completed Puppy Love.  That will soon be joined by “Vigil.” This second piece in the series is still a work in progress, so stay tuned to see how this piece and the rest of the series develops.

Cat Lovers Stay Tuned

And, if you’re a cat person, don’t worry.  A cat series is soon to follow.

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Moving from Fabric to Thread

Shifting gears, moving to the next phase, changing the focus; that’s what I’ve been doing in these last couple of weeks as I transition from the fusing stage of my project to the stitching stage.  I find it helpful to take a break and clear my head so that I can look at the project with fresh eyes.  So, during this period, an idea that has been floating around in my brain for several years actually came alive and demanded to be brought to creation.  I’ll img_1201share that with you in a few weeks.  It is a total departure from this project and did allow for the fresh perspective I needed.

Before going of on this side trip, the fused fabric foundation for “We Don’t Talk” was loaded onto my longarm machine.  You can see here all of the layers and how they are placed.  If you’ve done your own thread painting, you may know that it is always a struggle to end with a piece that lies flat.  I’m always on the quest for a better solution.  In the past, I’ve used a layer of raw artist canvas. This has been marginally successful, so, this time I will use 2 layers positioned under the batting so that the grains are perpendicular to each other.  I’m giving it a shot, but the tradeoff is weight.  This baby is going to be heavy for it’s size.img_1199

(2 weeks go by)

Thread, thread, so much thread needed.  Just as with my fabrics, I like to create selections for each element in the project, and just like with fabric, I use my trusty value scale to make good choices.  However, with threads, I usually put together sets of 7-10 threads: one each of the #1 and 5 values, and then two or three each of values 2,3,4.  However, given the size of the figure in this piece, I may have 3-5 threads in every value.  Here is what it looks like in my studio when the threads come out to play.img_1200

Hmmm, I think I’ll start on the face first.  Check back next week to see the progress.

 

 

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