Special Merit Entries


Four entries were selected for originality in design, personal expression and execution by the jurors and the project’s history consultant.

Joan Baez, by Jo Kellar

Selected by Rosa Valdez, Juror

Public Art Program Coordinator, Alameda County Arts Commission

"Jo Kellar’s story quilt immediately captured my attention for its striking composition and compelling personal narrative. Featuring Joan Baez, the quilt highlights a tumultuous time in our country’s history while celebrating the power and resilience of women. It is a reminder of the continued active role that women, especially young women, have in the fight for social justice and political change. This narrative is further strengthened by Kellar’s artistic excellence demonstrated by her choices in color palette, fabrics, techniques, and overall arrangement. The colorful fabrics and composition give a nod to art and music posters of the 60’s, yet feels wholly contemporary with the use of bold, graphic features. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful profile of Joan’s face coupled with the movement of her hair. The energetic flow of hair not only captures Joan’s particular qualities and contributions but kept my eye moving throughout to discover new elements. In Kellar’s essay, her personal anecdotes connecting the past with the present resonated with me and deepened my viewer experience. This is a beautifully constructed quilt with an equally fascinating story created by a talented artist."

by Lois Rita Helmbold

Selected by Patricia Guthrie, Juror

Professor Emerita, California State University, East Bay

"Vote/Suppressed, created by Lois Rita Helmbold, presents an outstanding and very thoughtful story quilt celebrating women’s progress while at the same time exposing ways that progress is not necessarily available to all. The artist summarizes this by saying “I am struck by how much things change and still remain the same.” Helmbold periodically and cleverly directs her reader back and forth between the written narrative and the quilt. Starting with 1920, Helmbold highlights voting rights victories while pointing out groups that remained disenfranchised – persons stigmatized by such things as immigration status, race, and age. Her narrative brings us up to date by discussing current attempts to disenfranchise individuals by, among other things, requiring new forms of identification and creating long distances to travel to polling places. She ties the 1920 federal laws stopping Asians from becoming citizens and links that to our present-day immigration crisis. Included in her nine-block work are well executed images of African American women, immigrant girls and faceless incarcerated women. Balancing these blocks are images of women who can vote but do not always do so. Vote/Suppressed, with its strong articulation between narrative and quilt, represents a story quilt at its best."

On the Money, by Priscilla Read

Selected by Inez Brooks-Myers, Juror

Textile Curator and Exhibition Consultant

"Harriet Tubman is a memorable woman in nineteenth century American history. However, she was launched into a twenty-first century debate over the reissuing of the twenty-dollar bill.  Artist Priscilla Read looked upon this moment to make a statement about Tubman, history, issues of  representation, current United States politics and other concerns of importance, particularly to women.  And, Read did it in a manner associated with women   ̶  needlework; she made a quilt.


Read employs a technique of 19th and early 20th century artists such as Picasso and Matisse by using nontraditional color in unexpected places.  She boldly uses vermillion as the outlining element in her portrait of Tubman, taken from the well-known photograph in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.  She carefully renders Harriet’s dress in green, using harmonizing patterns to indicate the lines, folds of fabric and shadows in the garment.  She shows us the lace at Tubman’s neckline using a softly patterned print.  The same light-colored print is used in the background to emphasize the strength in Tubman’s pose. The numerals “20 20” speak to the fact that Harriet Tubman is a candidate for a new twenty-dollar bill; a candidacy that has been put on hold.  Perhaps the year 2020 will find new attitudes in our Treasury Department and the heroic Tubman will have the honor of appearing on our currency. Presently, Priscilla Read’s quilt proudly honors Harriet Tubman."

Sue Sans Sunbonnet,
by Cara Lamb

Selected by Melinda McCrary, History Consultant

Director, Richmond Museum of History and Culture

"Sue Sans Sunbonnet stands out to me among this group of story quilts for several reasons. The adaption of the traditional Sunbonnet Sue pattern is clever, charming and so appropriate for the period covered in this challenge, 1920 - 2020. Sunbonnet Sue represents the historical role of women in a singular pattern of domesticity and working in the home. Sue Sans Sunbonnet represents the variety of roles women have adopted over the last century of progress and should inspire reflection about all the other types of hats women can wear now that we have expanded beyond the sunbonnet. As artist Cara Lamb notes in her essay, '…some of these figures may remind you of particular [women], but they are all Sue, because Sue is Everywoman!'”