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Rare Quilts found in Bath County Virginia

An Enslaved Woman and her Dressmaker Daughter

Bath County, Virginia

Funding provided by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Sponsored by Bath County Historical Society, Kathleen Curtis Wilson, Appalachian textile scholar and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Fellow, has documented the life and needlework skills of Elizabeth Morris Bolden, daughter of an enslaved woman in Warm Springs, Virginia. The historic textiles made by Bolden are being professionally photographed under Wilson’s direction and images will add visual context for public presentations and future publication. A nationally known textile consultant will make a detailed analysis of the quilt fabrics and construction to provide information about the wearer’s social status, financial means, access to consumer goods, and skill as a dressmaker.

Because 19th century textiles with an African American provenance are extremely rare nationwide and unheard of in Appalachia, the existence of Bolden’s handwork and photographs of the maker that remain in the family-of-origin is an extraordinary discovery. Photographic preservation of the two quilts made by Bolden will enable future generations to appreciate the needlework skills of the daughter of slave who lived and worked in a small community in rural Virginia.

The documentation of Bolden’s personal story and an understanding of her place in society coupled with visual images of her work is new and historically important information to present to a diverse audience.

Wilson will present three programs in April:

  1. April 23, 6:00 p.m. at the Colonial Education Center at the Lynnhaven House, Virginia Beach. Sponsored by the City of Virginia Beach’s Historic Houses.
  1. April 24, 1:00 p.m. at the Commodore Theatre, Portsmouth, Virginia. Presented by the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center as part of an ongoing exhibition, Changing Appalachia: Custom to Cutting Edge. Sponsored by The Department of Museums, Portsmouth. (Noon arrival to order lunch for purchase)
  1. April 27, 3:00 p.m. at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Warm Springs, Virginia. Sponsored by the Bath County Historical Society. Reception to follow.
  1. To schedule a program, contact Kathleen Curtis Wilson at: 510-846-2590 or kcwil2@mindspring.com.




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