Ruth Finley began her career in the newspaper world, rising to the position of editor for the woman’s page for the Akron Beacon-Journal. After she moved to the Cleveland Press she assumed the pen name of “Ann Addams.” She went undercover to report on the harsh working conditions of women in factories and households, revealing her empathy for the women of the nineteenth century.
But soon her focus turned to quilters. She grew up with a knowledge of quilts. While living in Ohio and later in New York, she traveled into the countryside interviewing quilters, collecting their stories, and sometimes their quilts and quilt patterns. This fascination culminated in her well-known book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them, published in 1929, the first quilt book published since Marie Webster’s Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them. Her carefully researched book still provides valuable information for quilt historians yet its folksy narrative style gives it a personal appeal. The book includes information on more than three hundred quilt patterns.
Although not a quilter herself, Ruth did design one particular quilt: the Roosevelt Rose, named in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The design was illustrated in Good Housekeeping in January of 1934, a rectangular wreath of appliqued flowers against a black sateen background, lined and corded with lipstick red.
After a lingering illness, Ruth died in New York on September 24, 1955, the day before her seventy-first birthday.
Photo courtesy of William and Margaret Dague
“Yet there is a living reason for all that human fingers create…
Quilt names tell the story of both the inner and outer life of many generations of American womanhood.”
Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them (1929) pp. 7-8