One of the Thoroughbroad road trips took us just around the block from Scarlett’s house. This beautiful fall morning we would visit the well known Kentucky Quilt Curator, Shelly Zegart at her home off River Road in Louisville. Her lovely contemporary home would “wow” us and showcased her quilt collection in perfect harmony with the modern flair of the house. Full of natural light coming through soaring sheets of glass, white walls and orderly exhibits of Kentucky Folk Art, the home was mesmerizing. A roof line shelf highlighting a row of handmade children’s chairs stood directly across from brilliantly painted primitive wooden animals that stood as sentinels offering protection of those in the house. Instead of paintings, large quilts were hung from floor to ceiling, each on its own wall for your appreciation. We were honored to be witness to her lovely collections of handmade art.
Upon arrival we were greeted with Good Morning Punch, cheese straws, Benedictine crust-less tea sandwiches and fresh fruits. We nibbled while she spoke of the who, what, when and where of each quilt she had selected from her very large collection to show us. Each one represented a time in Kentucky history and the lives of the female crafters. Utilitarian in nature, quilts tell stories by the use of fabrics available at the time, the usage of embroidery, the type of stitches used and the patterns and colors they present.
Ms. Zegart’s knowledge and desire to share it with others had brought her to the forefront of the Kentucky Folk Art Movement. Former Miss America and First Lady of Kentucky, Phyllis George Brown, had been the catalyst of this movement by gaining the opportunity to bring the state’s back roads folk artists to Bloomingdales in New York for a special showing of their works. It became a big hit and so, their art was now valued by those outside of the state. Many items have been placed in multiple art museums and their works are still highly collectible. Quilts were just one of those artistic expression collectibles.
One of the quilts we saw that day was not only unique but quite beautiful. It was not made by women of Kentucky, but she wanted to share her recent find with us. The message it sent and the story connected to it was breath taking. Shelly had heard about it and took months tracking it down and then purchasing it. Squares each representing a hand embroidered message by a group of early feminists applied to a bright orange background with black highlighting. Susan Elizabeth Daggett, for whom the quilt was made to celebrate her 30th birthday, chose to remain single in the 1870’s, as did a large number of her friends. Their work in the Young Ladies Aid Society in Canandaigua, NY, and their long standing friendship through the years was a force for women’s activism and choices. The messages were unique as they reminded her to be her own person. The messages brought tears to our eyes, because of these women and others, we were the recipients of freedoms they had fought for. With gloved hands we touched the quilt honoring the makers of a gift that helped change our world. Funny how 30 plus years later we are still fighting for gender equality and respect. The quilt is currently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In the 80’s, as we looked at the quilt, we were hearing on television and radio ” You’ve come a long way baby.”, a tagline used to promote a slim line cigarette for ladies only in a pink and gold-toned box. We were being sold through commercials and magazine ads that women had made great advances. True, but it is only now that we see many women running for political office and winning regularly, that we have females on the Supreme Court, women astronauts who have gone into space, women CEOs of large companies, anchoring evening news casts, successfully landing commercial jets in emergencies, serving in high ranking military positions and all still fighting for gender equality.
Yes, we have “come a long way baby”, but we are aware we have many more miles to go.
For additional information on Ms. Zegart’s collections and on this particular quilt, visit:http://www.shellyquilts.com – The “ Old Maid, New Woman” article showcases this lovely piece of history.
1 cup margarine softened
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese softened
½ tsp salt
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups crispy rice cereal
In large bowl blend margarine, cheese together until creamy add salt hot pepper sauce, flour and mix well. Then stir in cereal. Form 2 inch balls rolls and place on ungreased baking sheet then press them flat. Bake at 375 for 10-15 min. Makes 6 dozen. May be frozen for later use.
Good Morning Punch