The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Quilt
A narrative quilt created in 1998 by the members of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association (GFWA) tells the story of their struggles against factory trawlers, fish farming, oil drilling, and other threats to the oceans. It honors the history and faith of the fishing industry and celebrates its future. The quilt was created in conjunction with nationally known quilt maker, Clara Wainwright.
Wainwright came together with GFWA members every Wednesday night during the summer of 1998 to conceive and create the quilt that tells the 30-year story of the organization.
Here’s what Angela Sanfilippo, president of the GFWA, had to say at a retrospective of Clara Wainwright’s work held at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA in November of 2001:
“Working with Clara Wainwright in creating the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association Quilt was a true joy. She helped bring back all those memories of the work of our organization. She made us discover our skills in designing, cutting, pasting, and color coordination that we were unaware we possessed.
As we met every week and decided what story the next square would tell, it became evident that each one of us had a favorite and with Clara’s help we also created our vision for the future.
Some of the things I will never forget about Clara are her respect for the work of the organization and the sensitivity she showed for each square that told our story.
Thank you, Clara. We will never forget the wonderful evenings we spent together in creating the quilt.”
The Panels of the Quilt
The central panel of the quilt expresses its overall theme for “Protecting the Oceans that God has Created.” Each of the 18 side panels around the quilt depicts a separate episode in the life and history of Gloucester’s fishing community and the work of the organization.
The quilt is also more than a testimonial to the New England and Gloucester fishing industry. It speaks to the need for all to protect the oceans. This is the responsibility of all men and women to be ever vigilant so that the oceans will be kept as sacred places for all humankind to enjoy and from which to draw life. The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association quilt thus expresses a message of responsibility to the world.
The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Quilt is one of ten in a “Millennium Series” Clara Wainwright developed with community organizations in and around the Boston area. All ten quilts of Wainwright’s “Millennium Series” were on exhibition in Boston during 2000-Millennium festivities.