Dr. Smith’s Quilt Has a New Home at the Museum
Last summer, Dr. Dorothy O. Smith of East Orange came to one of the Museum’s celebrated “Jazz in the Garden” noontimes. But she didn’t come empty-handed.
Dr. Smith, now 94, came to Newark in 1934 to attend South Side High (now Malcolm X. Shabazz). She would become one of the first African-American woman podiatrist in New Jersey. Sometime after she moved north, Dr. Smith’s grandmother, O. M. Carter, of Madison, Florida, sent her a handmade quilt in a pattern I discovered was called “Hearts and Gizzards.” When I asked, Dr. Smith smiled and said that she wasn’t really allowed to use the quilt – which is one reason it’s in such pristine condition. “Hearts and Gizzards” is not a terribly common pattern, and Mrs. Carter gave it her own spin, by rotating some of the blocks and breaking the rigid symmetry of the design.
Dr. Smith’s grandmother’s quilt joins the Newark Museum’s nationally known holdings of American quilts, although it may not be on display for some time. All textiles are very fragile, and they have to be kept out of light for most of the time. But Dr. Smith was happy to know that her quilt would be in good company, and be taken care of for generations to come.
-Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator/Curator of Decorative Arts
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