The Grand Generation
Presenting Your Findings

Needlework & Memory Painting

My pictures are mostly from little memories. They're like a family picture album.
Ethel Mohamed

Many older people use needlework or painting to capture their life experiences and preserve family and community history. For example, instead of writing her life story, Ina Hackett Grant of Chelsea, Vermont, stitched a Farm and Home Memories quilt. Each of the quilt's 172 embroidered blocks captures a special memory of her life on the farm, such as the birthplaces of her children, sleigh riding in wintertime, her son's favorite hunting dog, and seasonal activities like maple sugaring, partridge hunting, gardening, and harvesting grain.

Similarly, Robert Burghardt, a 61-year-old teacher from Stony Point, New York, painted a mural depicting his childhood memories of growing up in his urban, ethnic neighborhood of Yorkville, in New York City, during the 1920s and 1930s. He says of his work:

"I hope that everyone can get something out of this mural--that older people will remember things from their old neighborhoods and that young people will be better able to understand what their parents and grandparents went through."

When her husband died, Ethel Mohamed, an 80-year-old storekeeper from Belzoni, Mississippi, returned to the art of embroidery she had learned as a young girl, as a way to relieve her feelings of loneliness and to recapture the "precious memories" of her married life. Her embroideries depict many of the most significant events in her life, including the birth of a new baby, her wedding day, the family store during the Depression, and her husband's bedtime story hours with the children. Over the past decade, Mrs. Mohamed has produced more than 90 embroidered "memory pictures" -her autobiography in needle and thread.