In honor of the centennial of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote, Homestead National Monument’s latest exhibit in the Education Center highlights artistic quilts made by Nebraska women and focusing on women’s history.
“From grandmothers to heroines, some from everyday life and some who have pushed the boundaries forced upon them, all have a story,” an exhibit sign says upon entering. “We shine light on these women and issues as representatives of all females everywhere who have had to prove themselves and have paved the way for women of today.”
Some displays focus on famous artists and authors like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe and Willa Cather, while others focused on Nebraska women, like Edith and Grace Abbott’s contributions to Grand Island.
Some quilts had even broader stories, using an individual experience to highlight Nebraska women educators and farmers.
“As a fifth-generation Nebraska farmer, I’m honoring the women who broke sod, walked along with wagon trains, fed the world while men were at war and have been integral parts of farming operations for centuries,” Megan Patent-Nygren of Ashland said. Her quilt depicts an image of her great-grandma, Martha Wohlman Brodersen in rural Randolph.
In the piece description for “March On” by Marilyn Schmadeke Remboldt of Lincoln, the artist talks about not being able to participate in the University of Nebraska marching band when she enrolled in school in 1965.
“Except during World War II, since 1879, no coeds had been allowed to march,” Schmadeke Remboldt said. “It was not until 1972 that five women were permitted into the marching band.”
Cynthia Levis, co-curator and artist for the exhibit, said she hopes attendees learn from these women’s experiences, and also find inspiration to try fabric as an art medium. For her quilt, Levis said she printed copies of Willa Carter’s books onto fabric, which she then used to make the author’s face, and that she similarly felt like she put some of herself into her piece.
Levis said the pieces were curated from quilting groups Studio Art Quilt Associates, Midwest Fiber Art Alliance and Fiberworks, as well as other quilting hobbyists. She said co-curator Dianne Duncan Thomas was asked to create a similar exhibit for the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference in Omaha in August. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another notable woman in history, was expected to attend.
“We eagerly anticipated presentations from nationally renowned champions of human rights,” Laurie Smith Camp, Senior U.S. District Judge and the Conference Chair, said in a statement. “Recent events raising public awareness of deep-seated social injustices made the themes of the conference even more timely. Yet the pandemic has forced us to cancel the event.”
Levis said the exhibit at Homestead will be on display until mid-October.
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