The Quilters Hall of Fame evolved from my personal study of quilting, beginning with the techniques I learned from my mother and grandmother while growing up in Iowa. In 1972, I attended a quilting bee in Virginia, where I have lived since 1958. At this quilting bee I was introduced to Quilters Newsletter Magazine. Immediately, I became a subscriber and obtained every back issue to broaden my knowledge of quilting.
By December 1972, the quilting bee had grown to such and extent that we formed a guild, which became Quilters Unlimited. During the development of this organization, my sights turned to larger possibilities that could educate quilters from afar on what was happening in their regions. That idea became the Continental Quilting Congress, a quilt convention held at the Sheraton Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, July 13 to 15, 1978. Registrations came in from all areas of the United States and included twenty quilters from Canada.
The success of this first undertaking led to a second convention in 1979, at which I founded The Quilters Hall of Fame. It had become apparent at the first convention that quilters were ignoring our quilting heritage. In 1979, we inducted six individuals to recognize “their accomplishments, and thereby to establish documentation of a part of quilting history.” Honorees are not necessarily quilters but include authors, curators, collectors, editors, historians, researchers, and quilt artists from around the United States and in the United Kingdom. A selection committee reviews nominations entered by the public and then submits its choices to the board of directors for approval.
In the pivotal year of 1991, The Quilters Hall of Fame found a home. Rosalind Webster Perry, a granddaughter of Marie D. Webster was present at her late grandmother’s induction. Perry asked if The Quilters Hall of Fame might be located in her grandmother’s house in Marion, Indiana, explaining that it would have to be renovated. I immediately said yes.
The Marie Webster House, 926 S Washington Street, Marion, IN.People often say there is “more to a house than bricks and mortar.” That is so true in this instance. Dedicated townspeople formed the Friends of The Quilters Hall of Fame, and along with quilters from across the nation and a dedicated board of directors, the Friends became the backbone of the twelve-year renovation project. The Friends organization, now known as the Marie Webster Quilt Guild, has worked tirelessly in coordinating The Quilters Hall of Fame Celebration, sponsoring National Quilting Day and other exhibits and educational activities, raising funds to renovate and maintain the Marie Webster House, and promoting fellowship in the art of quilting. The Quilters Hall of Fame Celebration, an annual program in Marion, Indiana, honoring new inductees, began in 1992 with the exhibition Marie Webster Quilts: A Retrospective.
In July 2004 we celebrated the house’s grand opening. Now the public can visit The Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana, to view changing exhibits and learn more about the honorees. We have a website with information for visitors, dates and hours of operation, a schedule of exhibits and classes, and merchandise from our museum store: www.quiltershalloffame.net.
The first book about The Quilters Hall of Fame and its honorees, co-edited by Merikay Waldvogel and Rosalind Webster Perry, was unveiled at our grand opening in 2004. Research associates volunteered in the endeavor and wrote the essays for each honoree. This group is to be commended for its accomplishments.
I now serve as an honorary board member and, after thirty years, have retired as chair of the selection committee. My interest has not waned for documenting the lives of the present honorees and those who will be inducted in the future, and I am delighted that our book, now edited by Dr. Marian Ann Montgomery, will be in hardcover with essays updated, including more pictures for everyone’s enjoyment.