Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee's Bend Quilt

Lisa Gail Collins

In 1942 Missouri Pettway, newly suffering the loss of her husband, pieced together a quilt out of his old, worn work clothes. Nearly six decades later her daughter Arlonzia Pettway, approaching eighty at the time and a seasoned quiltmaker herself, readily recalled the cover made by her grieving mother within the small African American farming community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

At once a story of grief, a quilt, and a community, Stitching Love and Loss connects Missouri Pettway’s cotton covering to the history of a place, its residents, and the work of mourning. Interpreting varied sources of history and memory, Lisa Gail Collins engages crucial and enduring questions, simultaneously singular and shared: What are the languages, practices, and processes of mourning? How is loss expressed and remembered? What are the roles for creativity in grief? And how might a closely crafted material object, in its conception, construction, use, and memory, serve the work of grieving a loved one? Placing this singular quilt within its historical and cultural context, Collins illuminates the perseverance and creativity of the African American women quilters in this rural Black Belt community.

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