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"Housetop"—"Half-Log Cabin" variation

Aolar Moselyc. 1950

Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Atlanta, United States

Within the simple concept of squares within squares, Gee's Bend quiltmakers exercise their individual design abilities to produce an extraordinary variety of solutions as evidenced by Aolar Mosely's c. 1950 "Housetop"—"Half-Log Cabin" variation.

Born in 1912, Aolar Carson Mosely was one of eight children in the Gee’s Bend family of Elizabeth Pettway Carson and Sim Carson. At a young age, she was taught to quilt by her mother. Unlike many of her neighbors, she used a machine that had been purchased by her father. "I ain't never learned to sew with my hand. Most everything I make with a machine." From a young age, she observed her mother going from house to house to participate in quilting groups; she even helped construct the frames used in quilting. She would go with others to the woods, find four long poles, trim them and let them dry. Her father would then nail them together to form the frame.

Aolar was married to Wisdom Mosely in 1929 and they eventually had seventeen children, including Mary Lee Bendolph, their seventh child. They were among those who lost everything in the raid by agents of the Camden merchant's estate in 1932. They were also among those who benefited from the efforts of the Resettlement Administration later in the decade, buying a house and 116 acres. Aolar's familiarity with informal quilting associations came in handy later in her life when she became one of the founding members and behind-the-scenes organizers of the Freedom Quilting Bee. She worked both days and evenings, providing instruction, cutting pieces for others to sew, and fixing the machines when necessary. She prided herself on making it possible for others to work as efficiently as possible. "When they get there, they ain't got nothing to do but go to sewing." Although her wages at first amounted to little more than a few dollars a week, they slowly made a difference in her life. An April 18, 1969, article in the New York Times featured her photograph with a new washing machine she had purchased with her earnings and noted that she was also installing indoor plumbing and had plans to buy a freezer. She worked at the bee until 1981, then continued as a volunteer. "I was working for to get paid from up yonder one day," she explained, gesturing toward the sky.

She worked in the fields alongside her husband, Wisdom Mosely Sr. She loved to sing, pray, and quilt—skills she passed on to her children. Mary Lee Bendolph remembers her as a very generous person who would always share food or money with those in need. Mosely was also a community healer. She would go into the woods to gather natural substances for remedies, and counseled locals about home cures. She suffered from dementia late in life and lived her final years with Bendolph after her home burned in 1984 and destroyed nearly all of her quilts.

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