The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
Remember The Quilters:
A Google Doodle Campaign!
You know how when you open up a Google browser window, the “Google” at the top of the screen is often a stylized version of the company logo? Sometimes, you see a “play” button on the illustration, and when you click it, you’re taken to a short (always beautiful/cute/clever) cartoon about a person. Or maybe the animation illustrates an important event for an “On this day in history …” type thing.
There’s a name for what that is: It’s a Google Doodle. Here’s how Google defines the
“Doodles are the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to
the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers,
Mickey’s great, but he never made a quilt, as far as I know.
I love Google Doodles because they humanize (literally!) the monolithic, galactic force that has forever changed the course of life as we know it, i.e., Google. Google’s illustrations and animations are rendered so beautifully and the style is always changing depending on the subject matter and the artist(s) who creates the Doodle that day. Google Doodles are charming and, most importantly, they offer people around the world bite-sized lessons in history that most of us didn’t catch (or weren’t taught) in school.
Google says they’ve made more than 2,000 Doodles since 1998 and, since the feature feels like foundational branding/identity for the company, there will surely be many more thousands of Doodles to come.
And that’s where we come in. Because I did a search through the Google Doodle archives and guess who’s missing?
No significant quilt-world person has been the subject of a Google Doodle and it’s time to campaign hard to change that. I’m totally serious, and we can absolutely do this, people. There is a process of nominating someone for a Google Doodle and I am officially calling all quilters and lovers of quilts to make this happen.
Getting Google to “doodle” an American quiltmaker or quilt scholar is not an insignificant endeavor. Why? Because history is what we make it and we can’t leave it to Google or anyone else who doesn’t know about our world to make that history without us.
Google Doodles are so cool! But where are the quilts??
Quiltmakers have had to fight a long time to be seen as “legitimate” artists and engineers. Quilt scholars and historians work tirelessly to investigate a history that a lot of times hasn’t been seen as important enough to record. Maybe it’s because quilts are seen as domestic objects; maybe because quilt scholarship is a relatively new field; maybe because quilt stuff is seen as “women’s work” and therefore just not terribly important.
Look, we don’t have time to go into all that — and we don’t need to, anyway! Let’s just get to work, whattayasay? The time is now to submit to Google the names of important quilt figures to be digitally immortalized in the halls of the Google Doodle. Who’s with me?
Now, we need to be organized about this, so I’ve devised a plan.
I’m going to give you three suggestions of truly incredible women who contributed
HUGELY to the legacy of quilting in America. Note: Google Doodles honor only people who
have passed, so the nominees are women who are, unfortunately, no longer with us. Those are the rules, though.
Once you read through the nominations, click here to be taken to a form I have made to gather the votes. The person who gets the most votes will be the person that we officially nominate to Google for a Google Doodle! I’ll carry out the official nomination process, because I feel like one really strong, data-backed email (or even hand-written letter?) is going to be appreciated at Google headquarters, rather than 90,000 different emails from quilters around the country. Honestly, I did consider that method, but for this first time around, let’s do it with the form.
Last thing: There is space on the form for a write-in. If you want to suggest someone else, go for it. If there’s a person who gets more votes than any of these ladies, who am I to blow against the wind? Remember, though: Google Doodles celebrate people who are no longer with us, so you can’t nominate me. I’m kidding!! But seriously, don’t nominate me; I’ve got a lot more to do in the quilt world before I get a Google Doodle.
This will be fun! So, share this post! Post it to Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter, if you’re into that. Email the link to your guild. Let’s get the makers of the internet to recognize how important quilt culture is in America and how dearly we value those who pioneered, taught, led the way, and made our shared history a lot more beautiful.
*Many thanks to the Quilters Hall of Fame for giving permission for the images and for existing
in the first place.
Cuesta Benberry (Arkansas)
Cuesta Benberry, c. 1983. Photo courtesy the Quilters Hall of Fame.One of the pioneers of quilt research in America, Mrs. Benberry knew a lot about different aspects of quiltmaking history, but her investigation and writings on African-American quiltmaking laid the foundation on that topic for everyone else. (If you pick up a quilt history book today, Cuesta is probably noted in the bibliography and/or the index.) A founder of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG), the American Folk Art Museum in NYC honored her in 2004. Cuesta was inducted into the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in 1983. And this was a woman generally beloved by everyone with whom she came into contact, which is not an unimportant detail.
In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1998, Cuesta said: "We get so emotional about quilts because they're such an integral part of many people's lives. They’re on the bed. They're there at birth. They're there at death. They're part of the marriage bed. They're part of our lives, and they give us so many memories. …You'd call a quilt like you would a child.” Read much more about Cuesta at the Quilter’s Hall of Fame by clicking HERE.
Nancy Zieman (Wisconsin)
The cover of Nancy Zieman’s memoir, Seams Unlikely, from 2014.Millions of people learned to sew watching “Sewing With Nancy” on PBS, an info-rich show which ran for an astonishing 35 years. The woman both in front and behind the camera was Nancy Zieman, who started a catalog business at her kitchen table and grew it into a multi-million-dollar notions empire. Nancy’s 2013 memoir, Seams Unlikely: The Inspiring True Life Story of Nancy Zieman, detailed her rise in the quilt industry, her devotion to her family, and her singular, extraordinary life path. I’m sure every person reading this column was as devastated and grief-stricken upon learning Nancy passed away this past November.
In her farewell blog post, Nancy said, “The last
[‘Sewing With Nancy’] episode we recorded is ‘I Sew
for Fun,’ a show on team sewing with kids ages 5-9.
My granddaughters will be featured. I marvel at
Learn more about Nancy on her Wikipedia page.
Marie Webster (Indiana)
Marie Webster of Indiana. Image courtesy Rosalind Webster Perry.This designer and historian (b. 1859, d. 1956) wrote the first book entirely devoted to American quilts. Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them, was published in 1915, and was America’s first book dedicated to quilt history. Webster wrote, “The work of the old-time quilters possesses artistic merit to a very high degree.” Thanks, Marie!
Mrs. Webster only started working on her quilt designs in earnest in her fifties—she’s previously only done needlework for fun. But when she started selling the patterns and the kits for the quilts (advertised in ladies’ magazines and in newspapers), people went bananas for them. Marie Webster was a great lecturer, and a heck of an entrepreneur, starting her Practical Patchwork Company in 1921. Today, the Webster home in Marion, Indiana, serves as the headquarters of the Quilters Hall of Fame! Marie was inducted in 1991, by the way.
Read all about Marie at the Quilter’s Hall of Fame by clicking here.