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KAY

Legacy Quilt Project Participant Kay uneditedKay Lyle and Aaron McMullin
00:00 / 31:28

Aaron: Yeah, so I, I guess we'll just start with, you know, what inspired you to join in this project? Yeah,

 

Kay: I, I remember, so I, We both were at that workshop that Caitlin was giving, and um, just hearing you talk about the project was really cool, and then when I started following you on socials and started like looking into the details of it, I was like, oh yeah, this is totally something I would do, and it happened that at the time, I was also In process of, hey, I want to break down this quilt that I've inherited from my mother and my, you know, my mother's side of the family, um, because the quilt itself was breaking down and I was going to kind of go through and decide what of it I was going to keep and make into my own quilt and, you know, what was ready to go.

And that this seemed a really opportune moment to use this. My own process of breaking that down to harmonize with the ideas that you're addressing about breaking down racism in our family lineages and, um, yeah, just the little literal act of cutting it apart. Yeah, like putting it back together in a way that's beautiful.

Um, Because there's, yeah, there's definitely, um, histories of racism in my family. Um, and like all white families in this country, you know, we've all benefited from slavery. So, um, yeah, it just, it seemed harmonious and it seemed like something I should do. And I've been enjoying it as much as I've worked on it.

Yeah.

 

Aaron: Yeah. And so the woman that, um, you chose for your portrait, tell me a little bit about her.

 

Kay: Yeah, so she, um, I, my mind is blanking on her whole name right now. But I think

 

Aaron: Paulina, right? Yeah.

 

Kay: Paulina Davis. Davis, yeah. And her name was Kellogg, too, at some point, which sticks in my head because of the other Kelloggs.

Mm hmm. Who had a very different sort of, Um, yeah, so she, um, and yeah, when I picked her, I didn't really realize too, because, you know, you had us all picked from the table and I was like, okay, this one's calling out to me. Um, her background is strangely resonant. Yeah. With my own. Yeah. Um, so, uh, She was raised in a very strict religious household, which I also was, uh, and early on in her first marriage, she and her husband decided to leave their church over, um, anti slavery issues and do their own thing, um, and started.

An abolitionist group where they were, they were attacked in their homes at least once, um, over it. And eventually, so her first husband died, um, not from any of that, just from disease. And, um, so she was a single woman who had this money. And she moved to New York, got trained in medicine, as much as a woman could, as any woman could at the time, and started basically teaching sex education to other women in her like age and social class, because she was trained and she would be allowed to talk to them about it.

Oh, interesting. So, a couple of the doctors at the time, I'm sure a lot of them, We're not happy about it, but what I read was there were at least a few doctors at the time that were saying she was the best female doctor that they would recommend anyone to. Um, So I love that she, her first husband dies, she has all this money, so she's like, cool, uh, I'm going to go get a degree, I'm going to go get, start, uh, teaching women about their bodies, because no one did, right?

Like, no one taught me about mine, and I know all these women who are having these problems, like, let's just do this thing. Um, and then, so in my own history, I was a social worker before I went back to school for art, and um, Um, my primary focus in the social work world was, um, health access and specifically women's reproductive health.

So I have background with Planned Parenthood and Susan G Komen and, uh, a number of other related entities. Yeah. Um, so I was like, well, this is bizarre. Um, and then she married again. Uh, her new husband, I think was a senator for Rhode Island, one of the Rhode Island or Connecticut, one of the small little states up there, you know, um, and then kind of with that, that wealth and status that she continued to have, she, she helped found the, um, the first, uh, women's suffrage convention.

So she was one of the primary, um, Founders of that. Um, but then also she started this newspaper called the Una, which was a women's paper on women's issues. Um, so she owned it. It was edited by a woman. Um, she didn't own the print shop, but she paid the print shop. Um, and the print shop, uh, what a, from what I read also employed one of the first certified black printers of the time, which is pretty frigging cool.

So, um. Yeah. Like she just has this really neat history of like using her privilege and wealth to direct attention to these issues. And so the paper, the paper was very much involved with feminism and also with abolition work. And like to her, those things kind of went hand in hand. Yeah. And I think even at the time, not every feminist leader was thinking that way.

Um, and I, from what I can see. See, she maybe had, I, there's some things that aren't really explicit, but kind of reading between the lines and some of the history I read. Yeah. I got the impression that, um, do you want email? She had some falling out as a conflict with some of the other organizers over that very issue.

Yeah. So I thought that was really interesting. Um, so yeah. And then I, you know, similarly again, I moved out of the social work world and into the art world and I'm doing printmaking. Yeah. Literally on some of these machines that would've been around when she was. Printing. Yeah. Like when her newspaper was being printed.

So I was like, well, this, I can't deny that this has been a super resonant experience and it's been really cool learning about her and, um, everything she did. One of the things that I read, um, Um, mentioned that her records and her notes on all of this are some of the best records we have of the very earliest parts of the abolitionist and feminist movements.

So that's pretty freaking cool. Um, so as part of that, uh, that record keeping and my own access to printing, I'm going to try to print for myself, reprint, I guess it would be, um, Some of her words from the UNA and whatever other sources I can find. I love that. Yeah, yeah, as part of the block, so.

 

Aaron: Oh, that's so exciting.

It's so interesting to me when you were talking about, you know, I didn't know her background about, like, women's health and, um, Lillian Smith, who I studied a lot about and I did a residency at her, um, camp for girls, which is now an artist residency center in Georgia. Um, she, one of the things that she made a point of when she was running that camp was sex education for these high school girls.

Yeah. Yeah. And in the South. in the early 1900s. Yeah. That was non existent. Not allowed. No one talked about it. No.

 

Kay: In the South now it's still not allowed.

 

Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. And, and then she lived a very quiet, you know, she and her partner Paula lived together at the camp. Yeah. And they, they weren't necessarily Out as a couple, but everybody knew, yeah, yeah.

And I, I think like certified spinsters, I've been learning about more and more of these women seeing how they like they're, they're. Ability to empathize with lack of rights. Like it really pushed them to this point of Internalizing and empathizing and understanding that that they wanted that to extend to all people and um It makes me wonder like, you know, what what Do we need today?

to personal, you know, because it was so personal for each of them because they were living during a time when if they got divorced, their husband would have their children. Right. They would have no money. Right. Couldn't own property. Yeah. Um, and those things they were working really hard to change, but you know, and so I think that There was an awareness that, of course, there are elements of slavery they will never be able to empathize with.

And they also could empathize with being a marginalized group in society. And so I, I love that. I'm just seeing how I don't think I've come across any of these women who have only been, you know, an abolitionist. Only one thing,

 

Kay: right? Exactly. Exactly. No, it's great because they, and I, I mean, we're having this conversation still now.

It's like all of these things are intertwined, right? And they always have been. And I think once you kind of get woken up to one thing, you start seeing the patterns everywhere. And it's really great to see that there is a long history and a legacy of this. It's not just something we're doing now, it's always been there.

But, has been actively suppressed in many ways, you know?

 

Aaron: And it's interesting to think about it, too, within the context of, like, the history of feminism, because, like, the roots of feminism were radical. Yes, absolutely. Like, most of these suffragettes were also abolitionists. And what, like, what I've learned is that there was a split in the movement, and it was pretty close to after the Civil War, when, you know, they were like, Okay, well Slavery is over.

We think it's we've we've done that. Now we really need to focus on getting the vote for women. Yeah. And there there was, you know, some people believed that. It would detract from their Mm-Hmm. cause Yep. To include the vote for black people in that. Yep. And other people were like, there's no difference.

Yeah.

 

Kay: Like, yeah. We

 

Aaron: can't fight for one and not the other. Right, right. And so it's, it's, it's just so interesting to see kind of how. You know, when we really pull the weeds back, like white feminism was rooted in anti slavery, abolition, radical, radical race, equity, and healing.

 

Kay: And then it is, like you were saying, amazing how the weeds come in and start obscuring that.

Right, and

 

Aaron: how we know, you know, like second wave feminism and The number of white women that voted for Trump and, you know, this, like this legacy of radical feminism has definitely been watered down and. You know, it's, it's interesting when we really go back to, like, where it, where it began, at least in the United States.

Yeah, for sure. Um, and I, I've, I've read a little bit about, um, women in, um, England who also were, um, the suffragette movement there and the anti slavery movement were also

 

Kay: hand in hand. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. It's crazy. Yeah.

 

Aaron: That's so great. And so you've taken this quilt that your grandmother made for your mom.

Great grandmother. Great grandmother made for your mom. And adding pieces of it to this portrait of Paulina. I love it. And so, when you're thinking about her life and her legacy, And, you know, aside from the like, um, strange parallels, um, what, what are some of the ways that her legacy that you can kind of feel that coming into play in your own, um, art practice and activism and, you

 

Kay: know, um, Yeah.

Yeah. I think, um, yeah, for me, it's just, it's a big deal to, to, to know and learn more about our white ancestors that were fighting for this, right? Um, because it's still sort of, I feel like it's cast as, you know, to be nice about it. Well, maybe you're a little confused about that or like, are you sure that, you know, you want to.

Side with black folks on this or, you know, especially after all the George Floyd protests and everything, just the number of conversations I got into with people were like, well, but looting though, like, well, but yeah, this really, this is what we're going to talk about. Instead of like the bigger, larger issues here.

Yeah. And like that, that, that what about is, um, right. Um, and just being able to be like, you know, Yeah. There are a lot of people that have been fighting for this for a long time. There are people that have always known that it was wrong, that this was going on. And have always been fighting against it.

And, um, you know, these criticisms are not new. Right. Um, so, yeah, I mean, I think, uh, in a lot of ways for me, it's, and I was, I was, again, raised very, in a very religious household and religious schooling environment, too. Yeah. So. The process of unlearning that history that I was taught and relearning the actual history.

Or I guess not relearning, but you know, learning the actual history, um, is really significant for me and I do try to engage with that whenever I can. And also to then like pass that on in ways that I can. So, um, yeah. It's very much just, um, a good spur and a reminder of, um, maybe like. Chosen ancestors that we're doing the right thing, you know,

 

Aaron: yeah.

Um, yeah, for sure. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I decided to do this project because I think that, um, I mean, number one, we, when I talk about this project to people, there are maybe two or three women that. They can think of. And that's like, yeah, that's it. When someone who is really interested in this is responding.

Yeah. Like the most average person. Yeah. Can't even name one. Oh, I know. I mean, maybe Harriet Beecher Stowe. Right. Exactly.

 

Kay: Or, you know, but I mean, I went through a social work program that focused a lot on this history. And again, two or three names. Had, you know, you know, I feel like there's this broad group of women that you just don't hear about.

Yeah. Um,

 

Aaron: well, and it's been so fascinating for me as I, as I learned about these women. And, and when I say learn, I mean, I'm like, Okay, let's find a name and an image and you know, I'll read an article or a Wikipedia page that gives me enough information that I know that they were involved. And then I sort of like put them into the folder and I'm learning as everyone else is learning.

Yeah, for sure. And,

 

Kay: um. Because there's probably not a whole lot on a lot of them.

 

Aaron: Not on a lot of them. Um, although the internet is an amazing tool.

 

Kay: It is, isn't it? I mean, like, it's really changing the way we have these conversations and the way we learn history. Yeah. It's got all these conservative folks all riled up.

But I've found that You can't have people finding this

Aaron: out. I know. When I learn about One of these women, I inevitably learn about another more. Yeah. And like, even I've, I just finished listening to this book called the agitators, which is a book about Harriet Tubman, Francis Seward, who was an, um, abolitionist married to Henry Seward, who was Lincoln's secretary of state during the civil war, and then Martha Coffin, right, who worked.

really closely with Frederick Douglass and was really outspoken and well known for her abolition work and like, had to stop multiple times as I was listening to write down a name. Another name. Yeah. Yeah. I still have to look up information about, I learned about. One woman who basically became Harriet Tubman's benefactor and like funded her everything.

Her whole thing. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm like, okay, I need to know more about who she is. Yeah, exactly. And Frances Seward. sold Harriet Tubman land and a home. And so Harriet Tubman was the first black woman to own a home and land. Um, and that was only possible because of Frances and her family. And, and she was very, you know, she was very much under the radar.

There's not a lot. Of information about her. Um, and if she hadn't been

 

Kay: married, probably intentional to some extent for safety reasons and any number of other

 

Aaron: things, right? I mean, so she talks a lot about how, you know, she really respected her husband's public role. And so she was pretty Under wraps about her activism.

She was much more radical than he was, but she was also, you know, a loving, respectful wife. And, um, but, you know, I think about, we, we probably wouldn't know half of what we know about her if her husband hadn't been Lincoln's secretary

 

Kay: of state, you know?

 

Aaron: But it's just like, I think one of the most inspiring things for me, as I've been learning about these women, is they had these sustained relationships for decades.

That they were in organizing and doing this work over many, many years. And formed deep friendships from that. And, um, like Francis's children, she died not long after the Civil War, but her children maintained, uh, relationships with Harriet Tubman throughout their life. Yeah. Yeah. And so it's just, it's been so fascinating to just have a little bit more of a window into.

Their lives and then to be thinking like, you know, in today's society, how do we, how can we not replicate, but you know, what can we take from those organizing, you know, the ways that they organized the long term relationships that they sustained? Like, is there a way that we can have activist community that's similar to that?

Yeah. Even when we're in a culture that Is just so, moves so quickly. Yes. And is so yes. You know, fractured and

 

Kay: individualized and very focused on a quick solution. Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Mm-Hmm. , I think. Yeah. No, you're talking about that. I'm like, that's part of the reason I left the social work world. Yeah. 'cause it really, um, standby class, those relationships that you want to be there, that support network for each other was just not there.

Yeah. In my experience where I wasn't at, at the time and place, you know? Yeah. So I. And I, you know, and we, we, weirdly, there's a fair crossover in the like printmaking world and social workers. We had a lot of people who either are or were, or like are looking to move out of it. And I keep hearing kind of the same thing is it's so hard to maintain that, that network long term and to keep people engaged with the work long term.

That's not just a quick fix or not. You know, if we elect the right person, then all of this will be better. It's not how, it's not how this works. It's not how any of this works. It never has been, but like, you know, we try to make the conditions ideal for what we want to push. Right. Like, um, and I, I think I'm, I do feel like I'm starting to see more of that.

between communities, but it's, it's like we forgot, but particularly we as white women, I feel like kind of forgot that like, this is a longterm sustained effort. It's not that requires community. Yes. That requires community. And we, um, Oh yeah. I mean, now I'm like, I could get into the history too of like suburbs and the nuclear family and how it was very intentionally family units and groups and communities were very intentionally split up.

Yeah. Like. I, like, my own, I don't know conspiracy theory or not, but my own thinking is, you know, like, we know for a fact that the government used drugs and any number of other methods to split up communities of color in their organizing. I really think the, the real solid focus on the nuclear family is absolute, was absolutely used to split white families up.

into these singular units that could all be consumers in these households. And that like, you didn't have to rely, not only did you not have to rely on each other, it was a sign of weakness or it was somehow it became a weakness to rely on each other for these things and to build community. Yeah. And now I feel like we're in this place where like, well, if I don't like you, then this isn't community.

Like, community, yeah,

 

Aaron: you gotta work. It's hard work. It is, you

 

Kay: gotta work with people. People you don't like a lot of times, you're going to disagree. There's going to be that asshole always, like, but you got to deal with them cause they're in your community. And you're taking it back

 

Aaron: to the suffragette movement.

Like they split and they came back

 

Kay: together. Exactly.

 

Aaron: Like when they got, they fought about it. They were like, no, we have to only focus on white women. No, we have to get the vote to everyone. And then they came back together. And so it's, you know. Yeah. When you're fighting to overthrow a system of oppression.

 

Kay: Yeah. There's not going to be one easy path that everybody agrees on. Exactly. Yeah. And I feel like that's the legacy that we've got to try to reclaim as white women. It's reconnecting with community and building that tolerance for conflict, disagreements, just discomfort. Yeah. Um, we've gotten, we've gotten bad at discomfort, you know, um.

Yeah. It was so interesting. Yeah. I mean, this, I've done a number of things like this, but the action yesterday, it's been a little while since I've been like actually out on the street doing stuff. It was so interesting because like the number one people that got the most upset and were yelling at us the most were white women.

And it was so funny because it's just like, you're just sitting there in their car, in your car driving by on the street. No one here is harming you at all. Yeah. You are so angry. Yeah. Why? Yeah. You know? I don't know. Like what? Yeah, something's getting triggered there. Like, yeah, it's just kind of so crazy, you know, like, yeah.

Yeah. What is, how is this a threat to you? This is not a threat to you. It's making you slightly uncomfortable on your drive to work or the store or whatever. Yeah. This is not, this is an incredibly small discomfort for you. And you sit here screaming at people, calling the names out your window. You know,

 

Aaron: I hadn't really made that connection before, but When I was, um, I worked at SLU during the Ferguson movement, and I only got flack from white

 

Kay: women.

Yeah. Genuinely. Genuinely. So, and I, you know, I, I think, um, I mean, I have my own opinions about white feminism and second wave feminism and the victim complex, I guess, that I think goes on there. And I feel like that has contributed in a lot of ways to just sort of like, okay, but like, like we're not to belittle histories of abuse of women.

Right. And also. We're not all the same. All women don't have the same experience. There are many women who have much more intense experience. Yeah.

 

Aaron: Yeah, and that ability to be able to hold you know, multiple truths. It's something that we don't Really? We're not taught how to do that.

 

Kay: Right. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Um, yeah, there's definitely, there's a couple things. Yeah. Like I've had conversations with some of my black friends that they're like, I, and the thing that got me was about community once. And like, my friend was just like, do you just, do you, why do white people not have their own communities? Go form your own communities, like do your own thing in your own communities.

I'm like, And it just got as I was she was sitting there talking I was thinking and I kind of when she was done I was kind of like, you know, the problem is we don't have any mm hmm. She's like, what do you mean? I'm like, we don't have it like we don't church is the only acceptable white community really outside of that We're not taught how to do that.

Right. Like we are actively not community through your workplace. Workplace or church

 

Aaron: or. That's about it. Or your own,

 

Kay: yeah, nuclear family. Maybe, yeah, your own nuclear family. You know. Maybe like a hobby that you do, but that's not really community as a hobby. You know, like, and just like. And so we started talking through it and she was like.

It was interesting. She was like, it hadn't occurred to me that like, no one's ever like, talk to you about this or taught you this or like, You don't have to, like, figure this out, like, no. Like, that's the big part of, like, all the reactionism you're seeing from white folks, is we're like, I don't know how to deal with this.

Yeah, for sure. For sure. I have no script for this,

 

Aaron: ah! And that's another reason why the, this work, like, grounding it in textiles. Mm hmm. Because there is a very vibrant textile community, and it's mostly women, a lot of white women. But within textiles, it's such a multicultural, um, medium. That there is a lot of like, cross cultural collaboration.

Learning. And so I'm like,

 

Kay: yeah, I mean, me and another of my friend, like we were talking, or if she has my one of my other good friends who is black, has a degree in costume design, and we do a lot of textile stuff. I mean, not a whole, not A whole lot, but we do crocheting and knitting together, you know, yeah, she's taught me a bunch of stuff and we always talk about trying to find a stitch and bitch like the one we went to a couple times in college and we're just like, nope, that's not a thing.

Or at least if it is a thing, she ends up being the only black person there, you know, and she's like, I just don't, I'm like, good. I don't think you should like, yeah, you don't need to waste your energy that way. Like, yeah. She's in a different, we're living in a different town now, which sucks too. I'm like, yeah, I mean if I could go and go with you, I would, but even then like, yeah, even if I'm with you, you don't want to be the only person there that's like,

 

Aaron: yeah.

Yeah,

 

Kay: like, I'll bat people off from touching your hair, but it's still exhausting. Like, you know, I'll get you there, but you know, it's, it's all the comments and the microaggressions. Yeah. Yeah, but yeah, it is. It is such a good, potentially a good space, a making space for coming together on this, because it is something that I think all women throughout history and some men even have really shared as, you know, um, a practice that we enjoy and.

can make beautiful things with and that when you're doing that with someone. You form connections. Yeah. I mean, I definitely feel in general too, and this is how I feel about printmaking and why I like volunteering here is when you're making some something with other people, it's easier to see them as a neighbor and a community member.

Yeah. Then we're just standing over here. Yeah. Or even sometimes we're just talking to each other. Like it's easier when you're both like literally. engaged in the same process.

 

Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot about the parallels between like sharing a meal with someone. Yes. Sitting down

 

Kay: and using their hands and,

 

Aaron: you know, just being in the same space and working on something.

And it doesn't even have to be the same project or for the same cause or goal. Yeah. Yeah. There is something that happens there. Like, it's like our own personal guards lower. Yes. And then, you know, because they're lowered, it's like there's a possibility for more connection.

 

Kay: It's a, I mean, I think probably it's a sympathetic nervous system.

You know, yeah, like that action of like, yeah, okay, yeah, this is safe. We're safe here. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Aaron: Well, thank you so much for talking to yeah, of course. Yeah. This has been great. It could go forever. Yeah, I

Kay: know.

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