Dr. William Rush Dunton, Jr.

So many of us are staying home these days and using our quilting to keep the cabin fever at bay while we are in “voluntary exile for the good of the realm.” Crafting and art-making as a mental health aid is not a new idea, and it was actively promoted by The Quilters Hall of Fame honoree William Rush Dunton Jr.

Dr. Dunton was a psychiatrist, not a quilter, so you might ask why he’s an honoree.  Well, he collected photographs of quilts, studied the Baltimore Album genre, mounted several quilt exhibitions, and self-published a quilt history book that garnered a net loss of $3,000 in 1946 dollars. (It’s a collector’s item now –quite rare and pricey.)  There are two copies in the Hall of Fame library if you ever get to Marion.  Here’s the cover of one, and a quote from the introduction.

Old Quilts
by William Rush Dunton, Jr. M.D., 1946

“In this book a number of quilts are pictured and described which possess interest from several standpoints. Some are remarkable for their intrinsic beauty, others for the history associated with them and still others because they seem to point to fashions or social customs of bygone days. It is hoped that there may be stimulated in the mind of the reader a greater respect for the needlework of the women who have passed on and also for their artistic ability which found expression with the needle and fabrics rather than with brush and paint or modeling tools and clay. It is hoped that the reader may be stimulated to pursue a similar hobby.”

So, he’s recognized as an early quilt historian and aficionado.  But Dr. Dunton is most famous for his use of quilt therapy with the mental patients in his care at the Sheppard Asylum (later known as the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt hospital) and Harlem Lodge, a private sanitarium near Baltimore.

There he encouraged sewing groups as a way to divert the patient’s thoughts along a productive and rewarding channel. That seems obvious now, but it was breakthrough in the early and mid- 1900’s. Here’s an excerpt from a letter in the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame, written by his daughter, Helen Dunton Furst:

“My father’s work with the mentally ill was his life’s work and he felt that occupational therapy was a most important form of treatment. Group therapy was not well known then I believe and his idea of having a group of ladies working on one project suggested the idea of quilt making.”

There’s lots more information on Dr. Dunton at this link: https://quiltershalloffame.net/william-rush-dunton-jr/ . Or, if you’re on the Hall of Fame website, click the three-line icon in the upper right, select “Honorees”, then “Honoree List”, and then click on Dunton in the second row.  It makes good reading while you’re stuck at home, and you’ll be amazed to learn what a Renaissance man Dunton was! Please be amused at the quote about “a nervous lady;” like all of us, Dr. Dunton was a product of his times.

On the other hand, he was ahead of his time in suggesting that for good mental health, everyone should have an indoor as well as an outdoor hobby. I think we can all count quilting as our indoor hobby, but what do you do outdoors?  I ride an old horse and garden until it gets too hot. Rarely do I combine “in and out”, but here’s the first flower quilt I made (all floral fabrics for the petals) and a detail of a more recent one made as a charity quilt.

Please comment on any projects you are using as therapy sessions. And remember to thank Dr. Dunton for promoting quilting as a way to get our minds off all that’s happening.

Your quilting friend, Anna

Marie D. Webster

There are 52 Inductees (one is a married couple) and one Heritage Honoree in The Quilters Hall of Fame. I’m not going to take them in order, but I will start at the beginning. Not the first Inductee, but the first in the house; that’s Marie Daugherty Webster. So many of you already are familiar with Marie Webster and why she deserves to be an inductee, and I won’t give you her full story, but if you haven’t met her, let me introduce you:

Marie Daugherty Webster

 If you want to get to know Marie better, you can read a charming biography co-written by one of her grand-daughters at https://quiltershalloffame.net/marie-webster/

But for today, let’s focus on the business part of Webster’s
life. She made her home, and operated her business in the building that houses
the Hall of Fame Museum. If you travel to Marion, IN, you can see the gracious
entry opening to what was the front parlor, and take the stately staircase up
to the room she used as her office. Imagine raising a family there, maintaining
a position as one of the local social elite, and hopping on the train for a
business trip to Chicago.  

Maybe in some later week I can write about the designer aspect of Webster’s career, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the records of her business ephemera. The Museum usually has a rotating display of some of Marie’s own quilts, her clothing and personal items, but you probably didn’t know that there are many business artifacts in the collection too. Here’s an example of how her patterns were marketed.

This is a 1930’s original multi-fold trade catalog labelled
“Quilts and Spreads”.  It shows nine
Marie Webster patterns in black and white with pricing and colors
available.  The blurb explains how the
kits were shipped, “ Attractively boxed, these Quilts and Spreads are furnished
ready to make, including all materials accurately stamped on a foundation of
best quality white cambric, and the Spreads on a heavy foundation of either
white or unbleached material.” 

You can find other trade items in the Museum’s collection at



I’m wondering who in today’s quilt world would compare with Marie Webster?  Fons and Porter immediately come to mind as women who built a sideline into a serious business which is still going strong today.  They are also Hall of Fame inductees, and I’ll write about them another week.  But surely there are some more recent entrepreneurs who would be comparable.  I sometimes wonder whether the internet has changed the way we do business to the extent that, either there is no longer a place for a Webster-style business, or we have so many small businesses that no one stands out. What do you think? I would love to hear who you think could be a current parallel to Marie Webster as a quilt designer and entrepreneur. 

Your Quilting Friend, Anna

Museum Closure

Our top priority is the health and safety of our community, guests, volunteers and staff members. Based on recommendations by the Indiana Governor’s office and the Indiana State Department of Health, The Quilters Hall of Fame will be closed March 18 through March 31. At that time we will re-evaluate the situation. In the meantime, we will be sharing “eye candy” and stories on our blog, https://quiltershalloffame.net/ and on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/The-Quilters-Hall-of-Fame-88678485145/?ref=bookmarks. Thank you for your continuing support and your love of quilting!

National Quilting Day!

Coming up on March 21: National Quilting Day!  What’s a good way to mark it? Well, of course, I’ll spend some time in the sewing room, but that seems too ordinary—I sew all the time. My interests, besides quilting are writing and quilt history, so that would be a good direction. What about writing something every day, like the blogger who did a Julia Childs recipe daily?  Too ambitious; I know my procrastinating self will never follow through.  So I’ve settled on something scaled back: a weekly post related to The Quilters Hall of Fame. Please check back to learn some fun facts and see if I can keep this up.

Your Quilting Friend, Anna


Come to The Quilters Hall of Fame and be filled with Delight! Fiber artists from Studio Art Quilt Associates express the theme of delight and abundance in a creative way. These quilts will be on display until May 9, 2020.

Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the art quilt: “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”

Founded in 1989 by an initial group of 50 artists, SAQA now has over 3,600 members: artists, teachers, collectors, gallery owners, museum curators and corporate sponsors. With access to our museum-quality exhibition program, SAQA members challenge the boundaries of art and change perceptions about contemporary fiber art.

As a part of SAQA’s dynamic creative community, members can take their artwork and career to the next level.  We offer a wide range of exclusive resources, mentorship programs and professional opportunities.

In addition, SAQA documents the art quilt movement – our publications include full-color exhibition catalogs, the Art Quilt Quarterly magazine, and our new book, Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation.

Posted by Deb Geyer