1924 - 1993

Joanna Pettway


    Martha Jane Pettway's daughter Joanna Pettway lived her entire life with her mother, who helped her raise twelve children in a small project house.

    We were kind of a big family—seven sisters and five brothers. Back then we cut dresses to make quilts. Go to the field, pick cotton. Go to the gin, wrap it up, put the padding on the quilt. We just enjoyed it. This time of year, the cotton opens up. We pick cotton and go to quilting, after you finish with the cotton, you go back to quilting. All the time, something to do all the time.

    It isn't like it used to be. Used to have fun taking quilts from one house to the other one. Get out quilts down here, go up there, get it out there, then go up to that one. Quilt so many in a day.

    We're just sitting down thinking back about old times—how they do and what they do. And looking for days to come.

    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 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."