Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ohio Reformatory for Women

I'll admit that I have always heard different music than most and that this "vacation" is odd even for me. I spent Monday at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio interviewing quiltmakers there. Their quilts were featured in a special exhibit called "Beyond the Barrier" at Sacred Threads. It has been a dream of mine to document this part of quilt history for more than 5 years.

The prison was built in 1916 on about 257 acres of land. Approx. 2,500 women call this place "home." There is a long driveway and visitors must enter from the side. I truly didn't know what to expect. I was meant by two wonderfully humorous guards who put me at ease. My bags were searched. I had to go through a metal detector, surrender my driver's license and have my right hand stamped before being admitted to the prison. I spent most of my day in the original prison which is made of limestone and reminds me of something you would see on a college campus. Actually the whole place felt more like a college campus except for the fence of razor wire.
Elizabeth Wright, Administrative Assistant to the Warden, is a delightful 33 year old woman who has dedicated her life to public service. She sat in on the interviews and was most helpful. She also gave me a tour which helped me further understand the place. I think one of the best things that I can say about the place is that everyone works and there are truly a variety of things to do from making quilts for charity to cosmetology to dog training to flag making to caring for injured wildlife. Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't want to live there. However, it is a place where women can be rehabilitated and get the skills to be successful once they are released.

I did six interviews including one with the Chaplain who oversaw the program. It was an emotionally draining day. I'm still processing all I saw and heard so be patient with me. I will be sharing shows with you over the next week or so. Gratefully, Karen


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I read Rosa's story, and at times I laughed & at others I cried. My one comment is that Rosa is a true quilter. Only a true quilter recognizes the insanity of cutting up pieces of fabric only to stitch them back together again... recognizes the insanity of it, and then does it anyway. I hope she continues her pursuit of her art.

  2. Applause to you for doing this project. I read three stories on S.O.S. and they truely make quilts from stuff right out of themselves. It was to your credit they were given the opportunity to do that. Good for you! Tell them they did a great job!

  3. Dear Karen,

    Thank you so much for sharing this part of the quilting journey that is life. I look forward to hearing more of about the stories.

    I agree with LoveBugStudio, Rosa is a QUILTER! in the truest sense.

    Again, thanks.


Love comments! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.