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Column #84

Desert Trader

Desert Trader
Desert Trader, The Life and Quilts of Goldie Tracy Richmond, by Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, 2012, Sanpete Publications, 120 pages, $24.95

“Larger-than-life” is a term that aptly describes a truly astonishing person and a most remarkable quilter: Goldie Tracy Richmond (1896-1972).

Ordinary adjectives simply won’t do when telling about a woman of massive size (she stood 6’4” and weighed 345 pounds), enormous physical strength (she killed a wildcat with her bare hands and could carry 100-pound sacks of grain in each arm), and exceptional artistic originality who, despite the unceasing demands of a hardscrabble life in the remote Sonoran Desert, nevertheless managed to create quilts that are considered among the finest of the last century.

Historian and author Carolyn O’Bagy Davis has presented Goldie’s life in a book that makes the reader long to have known her unusual and inspiring subject.

Abundantly illustrated with photos and ephemera assembled from Goldie’s family and friends, Desert Trader details the events that made Goldie a legendary figure in Arizona: her marriage in 1917 at age 21 to Marion Tracy, a man 35 years her senior and their hand-to-mouth existence during the Great Depression where they worked at any job available, finally ending up prospecting, trapping, and running a trading post near the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indian Reservation near Ajo, Arizona. Then there’s her decades-long relationship with the Tohono O’odham people (Goldie befriended them and became fluent in their language, earning their deep respect and being known as the “Angel to the Papagos;” and her avocation as a quilter (Goldie made hundreds of traditional quilts to sell at her trading post, but it is her spectacular original appliqué quilts depicting life in the desert that have captured the imagination of all who see them).

Carolyn Davis’ efforts to document Goldie’s life were as indefatigable as Goldie herself. Davis spent 18 years piecing together the details of Goldie’s incredible story, researching all leads, traveling throughout the state to interview people who had known her, corresponding with friends and relatives, gaining access to Goldie’s papers, and even tracking down a magnificent quilt made by Goldie that was thought to have been lost.

She describes her dedication to the project this way: “Originally interested in Goldie’s quilts, I became fascinated with her life. As a quilter and a quilt historian, from the first time I saw Goldie’s 1966 Papago Indian Activity’s [sic] pictorial appliqué quilt at the Arizona State Museum, I recognized her as a visionary and an artist with an amazing talent…Soon after, I discovered (her) 1954 Saguaro Harvest quilt, and (her) 1960 Prospector quilt, and I was hooked. As a writer and a historian, I knew that I would ultimately write the story of Goldie’s life.”

You may begin to read Desert Trader because of Goldie’s quilts, but I predict that, like Davis, you will become fascinated by Goldie’s life as well.

Desert Trader, The Life and Quilts of Goldie Tracy Richmond is available from Sanpete Publications, P.O. Box 85216, Tucson, Arizona 85754 or contact sanpetebooks@gmail.com.


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Archived blogs:

Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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