(Caption: “Southern Heritage, Southern Shame was created in 2001 in Jackson, Mississippi, by
Gwendolyn McGee to protest the failure of a state referendum to adopt a flag without the confederate
She learned to sew when she was young, but it took years to take on a quilt. Finally, weeks after her
mother passed, she bought some fabric, a pattern, and a few notions, and started making a baby quilt for
her newborn nephew.
“When I made that quilt, I thought about seeing my mother sew when I was a child, and I thought about
the women who came before me and invented quilting using only fabric scraps, needles and scissors,”
she said. “I thought about how this quilt I made to soothe myself after a death would be a comfort to a
new baby. That one quilt helped bring me out of a dark time in my life, the way quilts in this exhibit have
healed or shined lights on dark periods in our histories.”
The exhibit is full of such emotions, as featured in 45 quilts.
McDowell Hopper, who joined Northern Illinois University in 2012, said the exhibit is an expanded version
of the one that originated at Michigan State University, where she got her bachelor’s degree in history
and museum studies, and it opened the year after she graduated.
McDowell Hopper also has a master’s in public history and a certificate in textile preservation.
“Because the Pick Museum includes social justice in all of our exhibits, and because over 20 percent of
our museum’s collection is textile material, when we looked for a traveling exhibit for this year, Quilts and
Human Rights was the perfect fit,” she said.
Twenty-eight of the quilts are from the original installation at MSU, which became a traveling exhibit after
it closed in 2008, and the other 17 quilts were curated by Pick Museum staff exclusively for this
installation, McDowell Hopper said.