1903 - 1999

Minder Coleman

Boykin, Alabama
    About

    Minder Coleman was one of Gee's Bend's leading citizens. She served as president of Gee's Bend Farms, the agricultural cooperative established in the 1930s by the Farm Security Administration. She was also a member in the same years of the project's weaving cooperative. With Mattie Ross and Patsy Mosely, she wove draperies 76 inches wide and 250 inches long for the Roosevelt White House; she also helped weave some blue-and-white striped cloth that was made into a suit for the president. As Minder told the story, Roosevelt liked the suit so much that he wrote them a thank-you note. "He wrote us and said, 'Dear Ladies,' just like that. He said, 'Dear Ladies, I enjoyed the material 'cause I'm wearing my suit, and when I die, I hope they'll put it on me.'" The story has taken on its own life over the years: Marie Coleman Anderson now maintains, "They buried him in that suit made from the cloth she made right here in Gee's Bend."

    Minder would later be as involved with the quilting bee as she had been with the Gee's Bend cooperatives. When the bee was incorporated in the spring of 1966, she was named its vice president; she worked there full time until 1978, but she was an accomplished quiltmaker long before the bee was established. Like most women in Gee’s Bend, Minder Coleman learned from her mother: "She put me to sewing. That's how we started. I never did have a book or pattern or nothing. She just drew her own pattern."

    Minder's house was a center of pre-bee quilting activity. Granddaughter Ella Lewis, born in 1941, recalls coming home from school and finding family and friends at work: "They sit up there at her house and make quilts with Cat, Auntie Vic, Seebell Kennedy, some of them others." Among Minder's family members who carried on the quilting tradition was her daughter Minnie Sue, who made a vibrant "Pig in a Pen" in red, orange, green, and gold double knits in the 1970s that was featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 2006.

    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."