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Willie "Ma Willie" Abrams
Willie "Ma Willie" Abrams, American, 1879–1987
Roman Stripes Variation Quilt
c. 1975
85 1/2 x 70 1/2 inches (217.2 x 179.1 cm)
Collection of the Tinwood Alliance
Photo by Stephen Pitkin, Pitkin Studio, Rockford, Illinois

Willie "Ma Willie" Abrams

I believe she was quiet not because she didn’t have anything to say, but because she came from a world where you did not speak until you were spoken to. I think this is also how she was able to create many beautiful quilts...because in her moments of quietness she would think of things to do and visualize it and just make it. —Louise Williams, speaking about her grandmother, Willie Abrams

Willie “Ma Willie” Abrams lived in Rehoboth, Alabama, a settlement north of Gee’s Bend. She helped operate the Freedom Quilting Bee with her daughter, Estelle Witherspoon, who served as its head manager for over two decades. Abrams is remembered as a quiet person and gifted quiltmaker who often shared pattern blocks and designs with others. Scholars have noted that the quiltmakers of Rehoboth have a unique style, characterized by daring color combinations and innovative compositions. This distinctive style might result in part from Rehoboth’s geographical distance from the heart of Gee’s Bend.

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