2016 Fall History Highlight: Arizona’s Women Quilters

In conjunction with the 2016 Material Girls Quilt Guild Show, the Old Trails Museum offered its 2016 Fall History Highlight on Thursday, September 29, at 5 pm, at the Winslow Visitors Center/Hubbell Trading Post, 523 West Second Street. Author and filmmaker Pam Knight Stevenson gave a free presentation of Written in Thread: Arizona Women’s History Preserved in Their Quilts, which traces the history of Arizona through women who recorded pieces of their lives in their needlework. (Left: Arizona State Seal quilt made by Emma Andres of Prescott in the 1930s, courtesy of Pam Knight Stevenson.)

From Mexican women of the 1860s through Hopi women of the 1990s, Stevenson introduced some of the women who pioneered Arizona through the quilts they stitched, including Emma Andres and Mary Smith Lawler of Prescott, Sedona Schnebly and Ruth Woolf Jordan of Sedona, Alice Gillette Haught of Payson, and several Hopi quilters currently active in northeastern Arizona. These women quilted colorful patterns to add a spot of brightness to their homes and their lives, as well as to record and celebrate special events. Stevenson also showed how quiltmakers continue to commemorate personal and community events, and she will invite the audience to recall any special family quilts.

Written in Thread also featured quilts discovered by the Arizona Quilt Project, which documents the history of quilts made in Arizona before 1940. The results of this five-year quilt search were recorded in two women’s history projects: the book Grand Endeavors: Vintage Arizona Quilts and their Makers, co-authored by Stevenson; and the television documentary Arizona Quilts: Pieces of Time, written and produced by Stevenson and funded by Arizona Humanities and SRP.

A native of Los Angeles, Pam Knight Stevenson earned a history degree from UCLA and moved to Arizona in 1972. She served as Managing Editor of the Phoenix CBS news department and as Manager of Production for the Phoenix PBS station. Stevenson has been researching and writing about Arizona history for more than thirty years and has conducted hundreds of oral history interviews with Arizona Historymakers, Navajo Code Talkers, Harvey Girls, journalists, and, of course, quilters. Focusing on women’s history, she also co-authored the book Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers & Journalists 1912–2012, and wrote and produced the documentary Hopi Quilts, which aired on PBS nationally for three years.

The 2016 Material Girls Quilt Guild Show was on display at Snowdrift Art Space from 10 am to 6 pm on Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, and again on Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1. The 2016 Fall History Highlight, a partnership program between the Old Trails Museum and the Winslow Chamber of Commerce, was made possible in part by Arizona Humanities. For the latest updates on all of the Old Trails Museum’s exhibits and programs, subscribe to our “News” feed or “like” the museum on Facebook.