1932 - 2021

Emma Mae Hall Pettway


    Raised in Rehoboth's Hall family, whose quilts are freely improvisational, Emma Mae Hall Pettway married and moved down to Gee's Bend, where she made quilts alongside and was influenced by some of its leading quiltmakers, such as Louella Pettway and Aolar Mosely. Her cousin Queen Hall recounts their background.

    She was born in 1932, out from Rehoboth. Her daddy was name Joseph Hall. Mama was Josie Lee Hall. They was farmers; rented the land and farmed cotton, corn, peas, potatoes, and peanuts; took corn to the mill to make meal; and made out from year to year. She had a sister and two brothers, and they had a cousin stayed with them. She went to school for a while—they had it back then over in the Pine Grove Church. Her first boyfriend was Lovell Pettway from down in the Bend, and he married her real young and took her down there.

    Lovell was the school bus driver, and he was a farmer, too. Everybody around was a farmer. Emma Mae helped him to farm, mostly what peoples grow—peas, corn, cotton, watermelon, some of everything. She kept a nice house, and people say she was a good cook. She treated her husband good. Had to been treating him good as long as they been together. They had two children; one died.

    She was a quitter from the beginning. Quilted with her mama and cousins in Rehoboth, and made little dresses and skirts way back when she was a little thing. They made their quilts out of old clothes. That's all peoples used back there, and they just kind of put stuff together. They buy cloth sometimes at the store for to make children's clothes—and you know, any little leftover scrap going into them quilts.

    After she got down to Gee's Bend, she do a lot of quilts at home a lot of the time. Lovell make the horses for the frame. Emma go visit with friends over to Aolar Mosely's house. They had a place peoples come over and work together, and Emma learned to make pretty quilts from Aolar and them.

    Emma and Lovell, they live over the creek down there near to where they used to have the baptizing in the bend of the creek. Nice down there.

    The Quilts of Gee's Bend

    The Quilts of Gee's Bend

    The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells the story of this town and its art.

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

    The Quilts of Gee's Bend

    The Quilts of Gee's Bend

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
    September 6 – November 10, 2002

    "The Quilts of Gee’s Bend" celebrates the artistic legacy of four generations of African-American women from a small, historically all-black community in rural southern Alabama. This exhibition of over sixty extraordinary quilts that were made between 1930 and 2000 showcases a body of work that is bold, spirited, moving, and hailed by Michael Kimmelman, in The New York Times, as “some of the most miraculous works of art America has produced.”

    The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

    This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."