1903 - 1983

Sweet T. Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
About

Oldest sister of quiltmakers Allie Pettway and Lutisha Pettway, Sweet T. Pettway pursued the same two pastimes as her sisters and many Gee's Bend women: quiltmaking and gospel singing. Her neighbor and friend, Mary Lee Bendolph, remembers doing both with her.

She was a lovely, prayerful lady, the sister of Allie and Lutisha. She mostly sit down a lot, didn't do much work. She couldn't stand the sun, was kind of sickly. Tried to help people much as she could. Loved going to church, go all the time. She lived across the street from me and most every evening she come over here after I come home from work, sit down and talk to me, talk about the church, or sit down and piece quilts sometimes, tell me, "Girl, sit down and rest some, talk to me, you don't need to work all the time. You'll live longer." She be talking about the Lord, what he done for her, how he answered her prayers. She'll sing, she'll sing on her porch, sing on my porch with me. Mostly she don't sing the song but just do the moaning. Lots of time I hear her over there just a-moaning.

One time she be sick, and didn't have nobody to wait on her, but she didn't want to tell nobody about it. Got worser and worser, weakened her down, and passed. She didn't want nobody with her when she die. We was all in the room and she was breathing hard as she could, trying to keep going. We left the room, time we looked back in she was gone. Most people want to give it up when they're alone, don't want nobody standing over them.

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."