Pettway cousins discussed quilts at ‘Lunch at the Library’

Published 4:11 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Gee’s Bend Quilters Stella Mae Pettway and Emma Mooney Pettway were guest speakers Thursday at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.

The two Pettway cousins spoke at the Library’s “Lunch at the Library” series, discussing their love for quilt making in Gee’s Bend, a community in Wilcox County. What began as a family tradition centuries ago is still going under the leadership of the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy.

Kim V. Kelly, Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy Executive Director, said the Pettway family deserves a lot of credit.

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“When you hear the name Pettway anywhere in the world, you know it came from sharecropping,” Kelly said. “Stella Mae and Emma are carrying the Pettway name.”

Stella and Emma Pettway both said they are proudly carrying a family tradition, inheriting from their mothers and grandmother.

“I love quilt making,” Emma Pettway said. “I watched my mother and grandmother do it, I asked them if they could teach me. They taught me.”

Stella Pettway, 71, got a headshot on quilt making over Emma because she is seven years older.  She said she has always enjoyed teaching anyone in her family willing to learn the masterful skill of quilt making.

“I’ve been doing quilt making for a long time and I’m not ready to stop,” Stella Pettway said. “I want to teach the younger members of my family to make quilts. My child and grandchildren love to make quilts.”

The Bee began in 1966 as a women’s quilting business across parts of rural Alabama in the communities of Safford, Gee’s Bend, Flatwood and Alberta. It closed in 2011, but reopened 10 years later under the name  Freedom Bee Quilting Legacy as a nonprofit organization in Alberta.

Zsaquez Pettway, a younger cousin, also attended the lunch at the library. She was in the lobby selling quilts, books and coloring books. Zsaquez Pettway is a full-time worker at home, but helps with the family business. 

“I enjoy working in the family quilt making business and help out,” Zsaquez Pettway said.