Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
“Common Sense and Pin Money: The Material Culture and Legacy of Lula Annie Butler 1909-2009” examines local/global contexts of the late Mrs. Butler’s found quilts, her “make do” ethos, which made a way out of no way decades before recycle, re-purpose and green were hash tags. A lifelong Preston, Maryland resident and domestic worker, Mrs. Butler’s household was outfitted with quilts, tablecloths, aprons, pillows, and shopping bags she created from fabric-sample books and fabric remnants obtained from the late Mrs. Sarah Covey, her longest employer, who operated a drapery and upholstery business in Federalsburg, Maryland. Mrs. Butler’s artistic impulse-vibrant, improvisational, and individually expressive-is a thread of a rural Atlantic World continuum spanning from East Preston, Nova Scotia to Gee’s Bend, Alabama, all of which are transferences of African textile traditions. Like Harriet Ross Tubman, Mrs. Butler sold gingerbreads and quilts for income using skills she learned from her mother, Harriet Dyer Thomas, who learned from her mother Martha Adams Dyer, the earliest quilter, thus far, identified in this lineage of Eastern Shore women of Algonquin descent. Over three decades, Mrs. Butler made an unknown quantity of quilts to provide warmth for her family, friends, and fellow congregants at Mt. Calvary Methodist Church in Preston, Maryland. Nova Scotia, the Eastern Shore, and Gee’s Bend have isolative geographies. Preston and Gee’s Bend have approximately the same population but unlike the Alabama quilters’ collective and the African Nova Scotia Quilter’s Association, Mrs. Butler created her Chesapeake vernacular alone. Her strong alto voice, singing old hymns, emanated from her westward-facing bedroom on Newton Road as she sewed strips of cloth together at her teal-metal Singer sewing machine. This seer’s stitchery was a fabric scat embedded with a post-modern time line of textile arts in the United States.