Known as "Chicago's Quilting Queen," Bertha Stenge was an award winning quilter. After attending the San Francisco School of Art, she opened an art studio adjacent to her parents' house. After moving to Chicago, she made her first quilt while recovering from an illness. This first quilt was a Grandmother's Garden quilt pattern from the Nancy Page syndicated quilt column and won Bertha a $25 second prize in a local contest.
Thus encouraged, Bertha began entering and winning more contests including the Sears Roebuck & Co. national quilt contest for the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Her quilt won an award of merit, but no cash prize. After the Chicago's World Fair, Bertha began adding original designs of trapunto to her quilts. Her quilt, The Palm Leaf, won awards at the Women's Pageant of Progress in 1936 and the 1940 World's Fair. November, 1940 three of Bertha's designs were published in Ladies Home Journal and the patterns were available for just ten cents.
One of the first quilters to have a one-woman exhibit, Bertha Stenge exhibited her work in 1941 at the Art Gallery of the University of California in Berkeley. The Art Institute of Chicago presented her second one-woman show in 1943. In 1954, the Women's International Exposition of Arts and Industries in New York featured her quilts.
Bertha died June 18, 1957. She was inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame in 1980 and in 1999 two of Bertha's masterpieces, The Quilt Show and The Quilting Party were selected by a panel of experts for America's 100 best quilts of the 20th Century exhibit and the accompanying book.
Photo courtesy of Joyce Gross
"An Artist with a Needle-
Meet Bertha Stenge,
Chicago's Quilting Queen"
Chicago Daily News, January 15, 1955