Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who Is Camille Nixdorf Phelan?

She and her husband, Dr. Joseph Phelan, moved to Oklahoma City from Missouri in 1901. As is more fully stated by Linda D. Wilson at ,

Around 1927 she decided to make a quilt portraying Oklahoma history from 1541 the year of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's expedition through the Oklahoma Panhandle) to about 1931. She spent two years researching the state's history, electing prominent Oklahomans and events to be sketched on fifty-four quilt blocks. She worked four year[s] stitching the outlines of the drawings with black silk thread and mbroidering the details in pastel colors. After exhibiting her quilt at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Phelan donated it to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1935.

Mrs. Phelan (I’m just guessing, but I doubt that she’d care to be referred to as "Ms.") died in Oklahoma City on July 28, 1946.

From the Oklahoma Historical Society’s website at is this abstract of a later article on this fine lady written by Dorothy Cozart:
Volume 72, No. 4 (Winter, 1994-1995)
Camille Nixdorf Phelan: Oklahoma
Quiltmaker, by Dorothy Cozart, 356-367
Nearly sixty years ago Camille Nixdorf Phelan presented to the Oklahoma Historical Society a quilt that portrayed events and personalities of Oklahoma history in embroidered pictures. Since then little has been written about Phelan or other needlework she created. After several years of research, during which she also located another important Phelan quilt, Dorothy Cozart details the life and work of an artist who painted with needle and thread.

For a whole lot more about this Oklahoma City lady, see the December 1935 article in the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Chronicles of Oklahoma, on-line at from whence the above picture was taken. The article quotes Mrs. Phelan as saying,
My main object in making this pictured history and in presenting it to the Oklahoma Historical Society is the fact that in most of the published records of this formative period, the sordid and rough element has been exploited to the exclusion of the cultural and artistic. I want to counteract this influence by depicting the better element and to leave to posterity a record that will show the spirit of patriotism that motivated the great characters who made up the unique commonwealth Oklahoma. And I want to express my own appreciaton of the 'Land of the Mistletoe,' one time domain of the proud Red Man and the inspiration of those sturdy pioneers, the 89ers, many of whom have already crossed the border in their last great run.

In the same article,

The presentation of this priceless gift to the Historical Society was made an historic event. A splendid banquet was given on the night of November 30, 1935, at the Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City. Guests were present from many parts of the state. Some of them were men and women who had been identified with Oklahoma history for many years, while others were descendants of those sturdy pioneers who contributed to the founding of our state.
Governor E. W. Marland accepted the quilt on behalf of the Oklahoma Historical Society and the State of Oklahoma.

Was this lady proud to be an proud Okie? You betcha! So, rememember her name (yes, there will be a test later on)!

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