Desert Trader, The Life and Quilts of Goldie Tracy Richmond, by Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, 2012, Sanpete Publications, 120 pages, $24.95
“Larger-than-life” is a term that aptly describes a truly astonishing person and a most remarkable quilter: Goldie Tracy Richmond (1896-1972).
Ordinary adjectives simply won’t do when telling about a woman of massive size (she stood 6’4” and weighed 345 pounds), enormous physical strength (she killed a wildcat with her bare hands and could carry 100-pound sacks of grain in each arm), and exceptional artistic originality who, despite the unceasing demands of a hardscrabble life in the remote Sonoran Desert, nevertheless managed to create quilts that are considered among the finest of the last century.
Historian and author Carolyn O’Bagy Davis has presented Goldie’s life in a book that makes the reader long to have known her unusual and inspiring subject.
Abundantly illustrated with photos and ephemera assembled from Goldie’s family and friends, Desert Trader details the events that made Goldie a legendary figure in Arizona: her marriage in 1917 at age 21 to Marion Tracy, a man 35 years her senior and their hand-to-mouth existence during the Great Depression where they worked at any job available, finally ending up prospecting, trapping, and running a trading post near the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indian Reservation near Ajo, Arizona. Then there’s her decades-long relationship with the Tohono O’odham people (Goldie befriended them and became fluent in their language, earning their deep respect and being known as the “Angel to the Papagos;” and her avocation as a quilter (Goldie made hundreds of traditional quilts to sell at her trading post, but it is her spectacular original appliqué quilts depicting life in the desert that have captured the imagination of all who see them).
Carolyn Davis’ efforts to document Goldie’s life were as indefatigable as Goldie herself. Davis spent 18 years piecing together the details of Goldie’s incredible story, researching all leads, traveling throughout the state to interview people who had known her, corresponding with friends and relatives, gaining access to Goldie’s papers, and even tracking down a magnificent quilt made by Goldie that was thought to have been lost.
She describes her dedication to the project this way: “Originally interested in Goldie’s quilts, I became fascinated with her life. As a quilter and a quilt historian, from the first time I saw Goldie’s 1966 Papago Indian Activity’s [sic] pictorial appliqué quilt at the Arizona State Museum, I recognized her as a visionary and an artist with an amazing talent…Soon after, I discovered (her) 1954 Saguaro Harvest quilt, and (her) 1960 Prospector quilt, and I was hooked. As a writer and a historian, I knew that I would ultimately write the story of Goldie’s life.”
You may begin to read Desert Trader because of Goldie’s quilts, but I predict that, like Davis, you will become fascinated by Goldie’s life as well.
Desert Trader, The Life and Quilts of Goldie Tracy Richmond is available from Sanpete Publications, P.O. Box 85216, Tucson, Arizona 85754 or contact email@example.com.
Click here to return to top.
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here