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Legacy Quilt Project Participant Lora McMullinLora McMullin and Aaron McMullin
00:00 / 13:33

Aaron: I've been starting out by asking people what inspired them to join in on this project. And aside from the fact that you're my mom, and you love me and support me, I'm wondering You know, you could have chosen to cheer me on on the sidelines , so what was, what was it about this project that made you want to be involved?

Lora: Well, oh. I don't even know how many years ago it was now, it's been at least five or six. When I called you in tears, it was Martin Luther King Jr.'s 50th anniversary of his death. And I was just distraught. I was like, wait a minute, nothing has changed. We're still fighting this battle. I was really, I was crying hard. . And I was like, , what can I do? I feel like I'm powerless in this struggle. And I don't know if you mentioned Witnessing Whiteness at that point.

Aaron: I think I did.


Lora: I think you did too. And so, I got a group going. And I found it fascinating. I found out how much I did not know. How our whiteness is just embedded in the fabric of this country in ways that are not how I would like to support. So, when you started doing this, I was like, yes, I want to be a part of this. Especially the healing aspect. You know, as a white woman, the legacy of so many of the women that have gone before me is not one of support and healing. I want to find a way to celebrate white women who were a part. And I had no idea how many actually played a significant role in supporting abolitionists, in being an abolitionist, aiding in the Underground Railroad, and the tie that it has , for women's rights as well has been fascinating for me.


Aaron: So you could have just kept reading books and you know, why get involved in this project?


Lora: Well, I've been sewing ever since I asked my mom to sew my doll a dress and she gave me a needle and thread. . And said, go ahead. So I love to sew and working full time does not give me the time to do that. So I figured, okay, this is a way to feed my soul as well as educate myself.


Aaron: So, whose portrait did you choose?

Lora: I have Clarina Nichols. She was a mom, a wife, a suffragette, and an abolitionist. She was very involved in women's rights and especially the right of a woman to raise her own children. If for some reason her husband, um, was out of the picture, um, in some capacity or, just was a, what do you call that? A deadbeat. A deadbeat. Yes. So, she moved to Kansas. I guess she was, she was, I don't know if it was Washington, D. C. or somewhere. But somewhere in the east and then she moved to Kansas as it was becoming a territory in the hopes that something that she could do would help it become a free state.

Aaron: Yeah. So when it became a state that they could outlaw slavery. Yeah. Am I remembering correctly that she, her husband had died and she did, or she went on her own? I can't remember if he was engaged in something


Lora: He was a politician of some sort, and so he was back east the first time she went out, and then he became ill, and she went back, and then he passed. And then she went back out to Kansas City.


Aaron: So she did do that trip on her own.


Lora: Yep. And the second time with her children.


Aaron: Wow.


Lora: So, you know, she, she, I don't know how she worked it out, but she was able to have, um, be able to raise her Children, even though her husband was out of the picture.


Aaron: If I'm remembering correctly, she was successful in getting legislation passed to allow women to have a say in the school boards because up to that point, you know, today we think of education as something that both parents are involved in. But up to that point, that was not the case. Women did not have any, say over how their children were being educated unless they did it themselves at home.

 I think it was maybe they had the right to vote for the school board representative because it was the first legal vote that women had. You know, it wasn't for a major elected office,


Lora: But still it gave them some say into an aspect of their lives that


Aaron: Yeah. And so, as you've learned about Clarina and some of these other women and just been a part of the project, how has that changed, or has it changed how you think about your role as a white woman and your engagement in racial equity and social justice.


Lora: Well I can't say that I'm a billboard-toting, marching protester. Uh huh. But I definitely have found a voice for myself, when I hear someone say something that I don't believe is accurate, that I think is not, um, representative of any certain race. And I feel like if these women could risk their lives, literally risk their lives, then I can certainly risk, someone's opinion of me. And if that's the opinion they hold of me, that's too bad for them.


Aaron: How has it felt to be a part of the project in a broader sense?


Lora: I feel very honored that you would trust me to come in and sew on your quilt.


Aaron: Well, it's not my quilt. I know, but It's our quilt.


Lora: Oh, well, okay, it is our quilt. It is the quilt of every woman who has had a hand in it. Yeah. And, not just

Both: And not just women either. Modern times. Yeah, oh yeah, Jordan. Jordan, yeah.


Lora: And, but not just modern times. When you think about the fabric that's involved in the heart and how old it is and how many hands touched it in the process of making it, making the fabric, making the quilt. Yeah, you feel like you're a part of something that's really pretty amazing.


Aaron: Yeah, I definitely feel that too. Been doing what we just jokingly called intuitive stitching. . Yes. To me, it also feels like I am being guided by those ancestors. Mm-Hmm. And not just the women who made the fabric and sewed the quilt, but also the people who picked the cotton. that was turned into this fabric. aNd since this quilt is probably over a hundred years old, it's very likely that those people were either enslaved or were sharecroppers. Yeah. And it's in the era Where these women abolitionists that we've been learning about were at their peak of this fight.


Lora: Of the work that they were doing.


Aaron: Yeah. And, who knows, maybe they had a dress made out of some of the same fabric. You know, the fact that that's even a possibility is just so cool.


Lora: Very, very exciting.


Aaron: So now that you're close to retiring, you're going to keep helping me with the project, right?


Lora: Sure. In between all my gardening and everything. Oh yeah. I'm happy to. Oh yeah. Yeah. I really, really appreciate the aspect of community. When Ana came in here, I think that was the second time I've seen her.


Aaron: Because you met her at the workshop.


Lora: I met her at the workshop and I've seen her piece that she's done. And I'm very appreciative of the work that she put into it. But this being only the second time I've seen her. Mm-Hmm. . It was like, oh, my old friend, you know, my friend from, from forever and, you know, there was an embrace and just a kinship. Yeah. Because of the involvement in this. Yeah. And so, that's really important. And then when you think back on the history of quilting, there's so much of that involved in it. Yeah.


Aaron: I haven't really talked about the workshops or anything with other participants. I'm glad you brought that point up because that is a really big part of this quilt is, you know, not just connecting individual participants with these histories, but also with each other as we continue on these legacies. Maybe just talk a little bit about the workshop and how that felt. I didn't really, I didn't really talk with you much during the workshop because you were you and the ladies at your table were just


Lora: completely engaged in what we were doing and each other what each other was doing, helping each other.

Yeah. And the fact that you had individuals there who had never picked up a needle and thread before, you know, but we're still interested in the concept and what they could contribute to it and helping them learn different aspects of sewing and then having other people who have been sewing, you know, as long as I have, to share, Oh, this is, this is one technique that you can use to do this.

And I'm like, Oh, I like that. It's really encouraging for me to see how many young people are really interested. And I actually, you know, that's not surprising, I think. A lot of the change that our world sees starts with young people as they grapple with the way things have been done and the dissatisfaction with the results of those, um,


Aaron: what we've been left with.


Lora: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What we piled on your plate. Yeah, so that's been fun to see so many young people involved and, and then to see contemporaries, um, who are as interested in seeing more change and a better, understanding of how we can communicate and respond and, um, live with each other.


Aaron: Well thank you for sitting on the floor and sewing on this quilt with me while we have this conversation.


Lora: Absolutely.


Aaron: And for all of the hours that you've dedicated to coming and helping me. Wow. It's been very, very helpful.


Lora: It has been my absolute pleasure. I've learned so much and I'm very grateful for the opportunity.

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