1930 - 2003

Lucy P. Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
About

As a child, Lucy P. Pettway lived with her grandmother Lucy Mooney, cook at the old Pettway plantation house. Grandmother and granddaughter were often photographed together by Arthur Rothstein during his 1937 visit.

My name is Lucy Pettway, the daughter of the late Nelson and Catherine Mooney Pettway. My mother passed away only when I was four months old. I was reared by my grandparents, Needom and Lucy Mooney, in a rural community—first by the name of Primrose, Alabama; second, Rehoboth, Alabama; third, Gee's Bend, Alabama; and the present name is Boykin, Alabama.

At a young age, I united with the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. My lifestyle centered around going to school, bringing water from a spring, the wood stove, fireplace, outhouse, kerosene lamps, washboard, washpot, and two tin tubs used for washing and taking a bath. Smoothing irons were placed to the fireplace to press my clothes.

In the late forties, I was united in holy matrimony to Willie Quill Pettway. The Lord blessed us with five children. They are all on their own. Our source of income came from farming. Thanks to the Good Lord, I was blessed with the things I wished for: a home and necessities for my home. I earned a degree from ASU—Montgomery, Alabama. Taught school for many years.

Now that I've retired, my mind reflects back to the past, comparing the past with the future. Life wasn't easy, but I made it by God's grace. I've come this far by faith. "In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me." Psalm 120:1.

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."