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.
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Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
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Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
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Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
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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
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Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
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Column 63: The Fat Quarters
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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
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