by Suzanne Labry
Rose Marie Agnant,
The Republic of Haiti is a small Caribbean nation occupying the western third of Hispaniola, an island it shares with the Dominican Republic. Although weather can vary considerably due to the geographical features of the country, Haiti is primarily tropical, with average daily temperatures almost always between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since the climate is so warm year-round, quilts have never been a necessity there, and in fact, quilting in Haiti was largely unknown before the nonprofit organization PeaceQuilts started its job-creation mission in the nation.
In 2017 for the first time, PeaceQuilts was featured at the International Quilt Festival
in Houston with a special exhibit of quilts: Patience to Raise the Sun. PeaceQuilts'
Quilting Coordinator, Maureen Matthews McClintock, quilt artist Rose Marie Agnant,
and PeaceQuilts Director, Jeanne Staples pose in front of two of Rose Marie’s
quilts from the exhibit. Karla Overland.
According to Jeanne Staples, Director of the organization, “Following the earthquake in 2010, which devastated the country, quilting became an incredibly therapeutic activity that helped the women recover from the trauma of that tragedy. PeaceQuilts is now finishing its tenth year in operation. We know that quilting can be a powerful agent for change, bringing women together to help and support each other as they create beautiful works of art and useful products that provide a living wage.”
In 2017, for the first time, PeaceQuilts was featured at the International Quilt Festival in Houston with a special exhibit of quilts: Patience to Raise the Sun. Thanks to the help of generous sponsors, Rose Marie Agnant, one of the remarkable Haitian quilt artists, was able to travel to the United States to attend Festival.
Rose Marie, who was taught to sew as a child by her mother, began making quilts soon after the PeaceQuilts initiative began.
“Quilting techniques and skills were taught by PeaceQuilts' Quilting Coordinator, Maureen Matthews McClintock and Sr. Angela, a Haitian nun and sewing teacher who has worked with PeaceQuilts from the very beginning, and has taken the lead in training new groups,” Jeanne continues.
“Moun Yo Ap Gade Kòk kap Batay Nan Gagè an Ayiti –
People Watching the Cock Fight” by Rose Marie Agnant.
“Rose Marie was among a group of nine women who eventually formed the second PeaceQuilts cooperative, called Solidarity (one of five groups in Haiti that PeaceQuilts now assists). PeaceQuilts provided sewing machines, tables, chairs, materials and other essentials for the group. Rose Marie was a standout artist from the beginning and quickly mastered the new skills of quilting. In her own quiet way, Rose Marie became a resource to the other women in her group, who affectionately called her 'Mamie Rulo', which roughly translates to ‘mom.’”
Motherhood is a role that suits Rose Marie especially well. She and her husband Rulo raised two children of their own, but over the years, they’ve taken in 20 more.
“In case you are thinking Rose Marie and Rulo must be rich in order to have taken in so many children, they're not. They aren't even what you might call ‘well off.’ But they get by, in part because of her earnings through the Solidarity cooperative,” Jeanne explains.
“In Rose Marie's small village of Lilavois, like hundreds of other villages and cities in Haiti, life is challenging. Parents often don't have the resources to care for their own children. There are lots of orphanages, but many of the children are not orphans in the traditional sense. They often have parents who are in desperate circumstances without money for even the most basic necessities—food, clean water, an adequate place to live. This is the reality that Rose Marie and Rulo have responded to time and again, opening their home and their hearts to children who, for one reason or another, have no one else to care for them.”
“Kenèp Mwen An Ap Donnen – My Kenèp Tree Will Bear Fruit” by Rose Marie Agnant.Earning money through her quilting has changed Rose Marie’s life in many ways.
When her husband lost his job, she was able
to provide for her family because of what
she made from the Solidarity cooperative.
Being able to travel to Houston to share
her story would never have been possible
had it not been for her newfound love of quilts. During Festival, Rose Marie gave demonstrations of free-hand echo quilting, shared insights about the quilts in the
Patience to Raise the Sun exhibit, and
met hundreds of Festival attendees. Her
quiet dignity, easy smile, and delightful work makes her a powerful ambassador for the
If you would like to help quilters like Rose Marie in Haiti, there are detailed instructions on how to do so on the PeaceQuilts website.