Quilters of Gee's Bend
Linky Party, Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday #11

In continuing my discussion about my experience at QuiltCon this year, I have to say that I am so extremely thankful to have gone to the keynote presentation with 4 of the women of the quilters of Gee’s Bend. I did not spend much effort trying to get photographs of the women; I focused on taking notes of their testimonials and videos of their incredible singing. I hope their stories and songs touch you and help you find joy, gratitude, and thanks in your own life.

Mary Ann, Lucy, China, Gloria (L to R)

Quilters of Gee's Bend

Quilters of Gee’s Bend

Quilters of Gee's Bend

Quilters of Gee’s Bend

These are just the notes I jotted down as each woman spoke. I hope the power and story behind the words and in the strength of spirit of these women might still translate through in these notes.

12 to 15 quilts on the bed to stay warm
Quilts on the walls, windows, door to keep wind out
Pick cotton all day. 200-300 lb a day
Look back on my life to see where God brought me from
I am not telling you my story for you to feel sorry for me, but to appreciate where I come from

I started quilting at 7 years old, 9 patch block
On average, Gee’s Bend girls were 12 – 15 age range when they learned to quilt from their mom
Worked for 20 years in sewing factory: work had to be perfect
I don’t have to make it perfect when I quilt for me
Relax and have fun
June 2005 made first quilt for the Gee’s Bend Collective
Love to sing, love the opportunity to travel
-Mary Ann

Momma made me start to quilt when I was 12
I am not a big talker

Mother taught me to quilt when I was 13
I liked to quilt sometimes, but sometimes I didn’t: I wanted to go out and walk around
I am not a big talker either, these girls (China and Mary Ann) are the talkers

I got to keep telling you that God is good and worthy to be praised
My mother had 11 children, one died as a baby, a girl
My mother raised 10 of us on our own
My father left and went to Montgomery and married another woman and had 7 more kids
I had 3 kids, one died as a baby
29 year old son in Tampa
Daughter in Birmingham working for the government
My daughter tried to learn to quilt but told me it wasn’t for her, and I said that is ok, you have opportunities I did not
My momma sold quilts for $1, $2, $5
Back in the day we threw these quilts away
When I first went to Houston, Texas, and saw the quilt hanging on the wall I never knew that it could look that good
When I sold those first quilts I could pay my car note, my house note, feed my babies

It is good to be my age and get some understanding
I am 58. That is what my momma and daddy told me, that is what they put on my birth certificate, I don’t know how old I am.
I got 2 whoopin’s from my momma. I found out that was love.
Be careful what you ask The Lord for. I asked to get some exercise on this trip. I didn’t know what I was asking for.
I saw my momma’s quilt hanging on the wall and it made me cry. I saw fabric from dresses she made for herself. Jeans my daddy wore in the field.
-Mary Ann

Back in the day they did not spank me, my momma did not whoop me, she beat me.
With broom handles, pants, belts, sticks… When they let me go I couldn’t sit down
But now I can go to her grave I can kiss it
I didn’t know I was making art
I didn’t know nothing about art when I was in school

I love triangles
I tape up my fingers to keep them from hurting so bad
I like red as you can tell
-Mary Ann

Notes during the Q&A period

No men in the collective, but young boys have been interested and have learned; we are willing to teach anyone who wants to learn
China and Lucy classmates; graduated high school together
Maryann 58
China 62
Gloria 60 in May
Women not with us in their late 70s or 80s and when you fly you got to run sometimes, so they don’t travel far
Singing while quilting – yes!
The collective does not work together, we make our tops on our own
When we get together we tend to talk or sing
Lucy still does it all by hand, Gloria does it all by hand
Quilting all done by hand (no machine quilting)
Trash to treasure, China threw things away and Mary Ann dug the scraps out of the trash and started a new project
“I see colors but nothing here going to inspire me to change.” -Mary Ann
There is no wrong way to make a quilt

For more information about the women of Gee’s Bend, here are some additional articles online for you to peruse:

In closing, below is a video compilation of the gospel songs the women sang at the keynote, preceded by their introduction by Jacquie Gering.

What are YOU thankful for this week? Here’s how to link up:

  1. Link up any blog post the past week that discusses something that you are thankful for, no matter how big or small (Did you win a giveaway? Did your seam ripper save the day? Did a friend do something simple and kind that made your day?).
  2. To link an Instagram photo, click the Instagram icon at the bottom of the link-up screen, and use the URL of your IG feed as the link (for example, my URL is http://www.instagram.com/quiltingjetgirl). Please hashtag #ThankfulThursday.
  3. If you are linking to a blog post, please link back here to my blog somewhere in your post.
  4. Comment on at least a few of the other Thankful Thursday links, either IG or blog—commenting on the two or three links directly before yours works well to make sure everyone gets comments!

Thankful Thursday

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26 thoughts on “Thankful Thursday #11

  1. Patricia C says:

    Great post. Love learning about our quilt groups and their history. These women are awesome. Thank you

    1. They were an inspiration to watch, and so brave for being on that stage in front of an packed lecture hall. I was scared to introduce myself to a person at a time, and they met us all at once with their heads held high and love and gospel on their lips.

  2. pbarretthill says:

    Thankful Thursday. In this moment I am thankful that I found your blog. You are a rare person, Yvonne. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am just blown away by the women of Gees Bend! I am also thankful that their art (everyday life) is celebrated by so many and that they and their lives, as well as the quilts, are celebrated.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Pam. The women of Gee’s Bend are truly inspirational, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to hear them speak and sing!

  3. Chiska says:

    Thanks for all of your posts about Quilt Con. I’ve loved reading them. I especially enjoyed this one today. Thanks for your honesty about the experience and for being willing to share it with us.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback; it is good to know I’m not boring everyone to tears with my recap posts! ;)

  4. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for that video! Listening to their singing was beautiful, and reading the notes you took was inspirational. Really appreciate it!

    1. I am so glad it was inspirational to you as well; I was hoping it would translate through a blog post.

  5. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing your notes and the video. Wish I could have been there to see it in person. Very nice to read a little about their stories.

    1. It was a lovely experience, and I am so impressed with their ability to be so warm in front of such a large crowd. I would have been shaking in my shoes!

  6. What amazing women! I shared your post on my facebook page – such an inspiration!

    1. Thank you for sharing this along, Rachel, I hope others find it just as inspiring. :)

  7. Audrey says:

    I watched the PBS documentary on the Gee’s Bend Quilters on Wednesday night! It was absolutely awesome, and I totally cried while watching. It must have been a truly awesome experience to see them live.

    1. They were absolutely captivating, Audrey. I loved the Q&A portion of the discussion. One woman near me asked if they had seen any of the quilts on display and if the quilts there would inspire them. They all quickly said, “no” and it made us all laugh. Mary Ann tried to soften it a bit, but honesty is definitely their strong suit and I found delight and pleasure in that.

  8. RuthB says:

    Wow! so glad you put this up there to learn more about these amazing people. thank you!

    1. You are very welcome, Ruth. And if anyone has better / different / amazing online resources I can link to I would be happy to update the post!

  9. Mari says:

    “There is no wrong way to make a quilt!” Perfect! Thanks for the inspirational post!

    1. Yes, that was a wonderful quote! :)

  10. sally says:

    Now this has made me properly envious of your trip! I would have loved, loved, loved to have been there for this, and also to see their quilts, more than any of the other wonderful things there. Thanks for giving me a snippet of it here.

    1. You are more than welcome, Sally. They were lovely.

  11. Nurdan says:

    Very inspirational and beautiful singing…

    1. From the heart, for sure, Nurdan.

  12. When I tried to register for this, it was already full. So I didn’t get to attend. So I am particularly grateful that you shared so much detail in your post about it. Thank you so much, I really enjoyed reading this.

  13. I am grateful you have shared this as you have taken very good notes for key points of statements made from them. I love hearing about others history as I appreciate the history from where people come from and how they are where they are today. A lot in this speaks volumes for any struggles, triumphs and success’s without making it necessarily the focus as it is bulletin points. Saving for a read when sometimes you question yourself. :)

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)