skip navigation
Support KUOW
KUOW News

Gone, But Not Forgotten: Ku Klux Klan Quilt

Harriet Baskas
09/12/2005

Sometimes we find links to the past in unusual places. In part three of Gone, But Not Forgotten, Harriet Baskas shares the story of a quilt with a connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

TRANSCRIPT

AS PART OF A 2003 QUILT SHOW, THE YAKIMA VALLEY MUSEUM CAREFULLY UNWRAPPED AND DISPLAYED A BLUE AND WHITE QUILT MADE IN 1928 BY MRS. C.C. PARMETER, WHO WAS THE WIFE OF A PUYALLUP BERRY FARMER. AT FIRST GLANCE, IT'S JUST A PRETTY VINTAGE QUILT. BUT ACCORDING TO UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FIBER ARTS PROFESSOR LOU CABEEN, QUILTS WITH THIS MEANDERING DRUNKARD'S PATH PATTERN WERE MADE TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION, WHICH CRUSADED AGAINST ALCOHOL AND FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS.

CABEEN: "This is one of the few quilt patterns that has that kind of known origin as a very specific desire to make a visual political statement."

BUT THERE'S ANOTHER STORY SEWN INTO THIS QUILT. MUSEUM DIRECTOR JOHN BAULE SAYS THAT STORY BEGINS WITH THIS TYPEWRITTEN NOTE THAT CAME WITH THE QUILT.

BAULE: "You may not want to use this information but I shall write it down anyway, just in case you may want it. The white parts of the quilt were made from the masks of the robes worn by the K.K. K, or Ku Klux Klan The state of Washington was teeming at that time with this organization. Some of the big brass of the police force in Puyallup were solid members and seemed to be the backbone of the lodge."

SOROS: "I'm sure she wanted it to be a part of history."

SUSAN SOROS IS A FOURTH GENERATION PUYALLUP RESIDENT WHO HELPED ORGANIZE THIS YEARS PUYALLUP VALLEY QUILTERS GUILD QUILT SHOW. SHE'S NOT SURPRISED THAT A QUILTER QUIETLY PRESERVED EVIDENCE OF A PART OF LOCAL HISTORY THAT'S BEEN CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN.

SOROS: "And she might not have wanted to flash it around at that time because there was still so much more emotion attached to it whereas now I don't think that most people in this area would even fathom that was ever a part of our history."

FINDLAY: "We may think that it didn't affect our town, or our town was too liberal or progressive but in most cases that just wasn't true."

IN FACT, ACCORDING TO UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON HISTORY PROFESSOR JOHN FINDLAY, IN THE 1920'S A REVITALIZED KU KLUX KLAN CREATED PACIFIC NORTHWEST CHAPTERS THAT PROMOTED ETHNIC, RELIGIOUS, AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION.

FINDLAY: "In both Oregon and Washington the Klan made specific efforts to recruit new members. They recruited members who felt

threatened by the perception of things that were foreign, non-protestant, somehow un-American."

WE CAN'T KNOW FOR SURE WHY MRS. PARMETER USED KLAN MASKS IN HER QUILT. SHE MAY HAVE FOUND A LINK BETWEEN THE MORALITY-BASED PLATFORMS OF THE KLAN AND THE WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION. OR, SAYS FIBER ARTS PROFESSOR LOU CABEEN, SHE MAY HAVE BEEN MAKING AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STATEMENT.

CABEEN: "There's a longstanding quilt tradition of women making a quilt claiming her political allegiance which is different than that of her husband - but because the pattern was not as clearly readable - you know 'many a Whig lay under a Tory quilt' is the old quote - it's not quite so romantic as a secret language but there is that aspect of communication that is separate from the public record."

WHATEVER THE CONNECTION, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON HISTORY PROFESSOR JOHN FINDLAY SAYS THE STORY OF THE QUILT REMINDS HIM OF A FRIEND WHO REBUILDS CAR ENGINES AND SOMETIMES END UP WITH LEFTOVER PARTS THAT ULTIMATELY PROVE ESSENTIAL.

FINDLAY: "Seeming remnants in museums often can be like that. We think we have a story down, we think we know what the past looks like; it seems familiar to us - and then these objects come along that confound our assumptions about how similar the past is or how familiar it is and force us to go back and look at it more closely."

THE DRUNKARDS PATH KLAN-QUILT IS AT THE YAKIMA VALLEY MUSEUM, IN YAKIMA WASHINGTON, ALONG WITH 200 OTHER ANTIQUE QUILTS THAT MAY - OR MAY NOT - HAVE STORIES WAY MORE COMPLICATED THAN MEETS THE EYE.

HARRIET BASKAS, KUOW NEWS.

© Copyright 2005, KUOW

04.20.18

Schedules

spacer