by Trinity Littleton
Thursday, February 20, Mary Ann and China Pettway came to share their stories about the unique quilts of Gee’s Bend to the students, staff and faculty of Judson College. The quilts of Gee’s Bend are quilts created by a group of women and their ancestors who live or have lived in the isolated African American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama along the Alabama River. These quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family that represent a part of the rich body of African American quilts. The Civil Rights movement was brought to Gee’s Bend in 1965 by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. This movement provided a way for the Gee’s Bend women to boost their family incomes through the Freedom Quilting Bee and they have continued to make these original and world-renowned quilts ever since.
Mary Ann Pettway, manager of the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective, began quilting with her mother the summer of 2005 and since then has not stopped. She has had her work displayed in museums, galleries and universities around the world. China Pettway was also taught by her mother to make quilts at the age of eleven along with her sibling. The two women from Gee’s Bend remained on campus after their presentation and a few of our students took the opportunity to sit in with them during lunch which was followed by a quilt-making demonstration. Judson College was thrilled to host Mary Ann and China Pettway on campus and appreciate them taking the time to come.