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The Mary Schafer Collection: A Legacy of Quilt History

Introduction


Mary Schafer in front of her Linden Mill Quilt
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Mary Schafer of Flushing, Michigan has long been recognized as one of the forerunners of quilt studies as well as the developer of one of the most important quilt history collections in the United States. Over a period of over 40 years she developed a collection of over 200 quilts plus quilt tops, fabrics, and quilt blocks which are representative of most quilt styles and periods in American history. With the assistance of hundreds of individuals across the country, Michigan State University Museum was able to acquire the core Mary Schafer Quilt and Ephemera Collection.

This exhibition provides information about Mary Schafer and showcases items from the collection.


Mary with her mother, Julianna, and her brother, Josef,
before leaving Austria-Hungary.
Photographer unknown, courtesy of Mary Schafer.
Mary was born on April 27, 1910 in Austria-Hungary. In 1911, her father, Josef Vida, immigrated to Brazil and then the United States where he settled in Kansas City, Kansas. In 1915 he brought his family to join him but within a year, his wife, Mary’s mother, became ill and passed away. Searching for a better life, Josef moved his family to Flint, Michigan during the early 1920s. There, Mary’s interest in needlework was first nurtured when women in her neighborhood taught her sewing, tatting, and other needlework forms.

Photographer unknown, courtesy of Mary Schafer.
The Schafer’s wedding party, June 22, 1929. Mary’s husband Fred is standing in the center of the back row behind Mary.

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