The Women of Gee's Bend

A quilt by Lucy Marie Mingo.

A quilt by Lucy Marie Mingo. Debbie Elliott, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Debbie Elliott, NPR
Allie Pettway and her daughter Lola Pettway.

Gee's Bend quilters Allie Pettway and her daughter Lola Pettway. Debbie Elliott, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Debbie Elliott, NPR

The tiny enclave of Gee’s Bend, Ala., has been in the spotlight over the past few years because of a touring exhibit of quilts. The artisans behind the quilts — women from Gee's Bend — have won critical acclaim from New York to Houston, and they still gather each weekday morning to stitch the abstract patterns that first caught the eye of the art world.

Eighty-one-year-old Arlonzia Pettway remains stunned at the attention. "We never thought that our quilts was artwork; we never heard about a quilt hanging on a wall in a museum," she says. "Everybody went to talking about our quilts and everybody wanted to meet us and see us and that’s what happened."

Audio produced by Marisa Penaloza

Listen: <b>Web Extra</b>: Listen to Alabama historian Kathryn Tucker Windham and quilters Arlonzia Pettway, Allie "Ma" Pettway and Lucy Marie Mingo

But as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, their newfound fame hasn’t changed life much in the rural community of slave descendants and one-time sharecroppers.

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