A member of the first class of women at Lafayette, Liza Roos Prior Lucy ’74 majored in psychology, but then in her sophomore year she made a quilt for her boyfriend’s waterbed from 25 navy blue bandanas and found her life’s work.
“It was a totally amateurish thing,” says Lucy, a renowned quilt maker. “It was so ’70s.” Fourteen of Lucy’s works make up the Quilts in Glorious Color exhibit, which is on display in Skillman Library’s Lass Gallery through Dec. 31.
Since graduating in 1974, Lucy’s aesthetics have evolved beyond hippie chic and corduroy. Her vibrant displays of color are considered high art and have graced the walls of museums around the world. She collaborates with the celebrated textile designer Kaffe Fassett. Together they have produced four hardcover quilt books and 13 glossy pattern books that feature the duo’s fondness for traditional patchwork.
So it’s no surprise that when Lafayette convened a committee to come up with ideas to celebrate its 40th anniversary of coeducation, they asked Lucy to design a quilt. She eagerly agreed, and then invited the 123 female members of her class to submit images, photos, and memorabilia emblematic of their special place in the College’s history.
“It sort of looks like a bulletin board with different images from our time printed on squares of fabric,” she says.
The quilt will be officially unveiled as part of the Homecoming festivities during the third weekend in October, but Lucy may offer a sneak peak at a presentation of her quilting projects during her talk at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Gendebien Room of Skillman Library.
So far, the quilt contains pictures from a fraternity dance, the cover of a Jimmy Hendrix album, Birkenstock shoes, a $1,125 invoice for one year’s tuition, fabric from a table cloth taken from the dining room in Marquis Hall, Life magazine’s coverage of the Kent State shooting, the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, — “practically our Bible,” Lucy says — and a clipping from The Lafayette with the headline “Coeds Bring on a New Period.”
“I’m sure someone thought they were being funny with that one,” Lucy says.
There’s even a note from one of the women’s first residential advisers that reads, “Do you know what quiet time means?”
Creating the quilt has brought back a lot of memories, Lucy says. After college she married her boyfriend, the recipient of her first quilt, but he died just after turning 30.
“A lot of it was bittersweet,” she says. “But it was also kind of cool to think about the music and reminisce with my daughter, who is a junior at Lafayette.”
Lucy didn’t apply to Lafayette because she wanted to make history as a member of the first woman’s class. But it’s a decision she doesn’t regret, despite often awkward attempts by College officials to make the incoming female students feel welcome.
“Someone on the coed committee had heard that girls like to swap clothing and wear each other’s stuff so we were paired as roommates by size,” she says. Intercoms, bath tubs, and full-length mirrors were also installed in the women’s residence hall for the same reason.
But not everyone was receptive to having young women on campus. “Keep in mind that the guys three classes ahead of us had intended to go to an all-men’s college,” she says. “Some of the frats pledged never to date a coed and almost every day for the first few weeks they’d gather beneath our windows and shout, ‘Panty raid, panty raid,’ which was annoying.”
For the most part, the women ignored the taunts, Lucy says, preferring to focus on more serious issues such as the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. “We just blew them off,” she says. “In the greater scheme of things it wasn’t important.”
The quilt reflects that time by including a draft card that’s been set on fire, peace signs, and a “Make Love Not War” button.
Quilting has always been considered traditional women’s work, but that doesn’t mean it was drudgery. Like a modern version of today’s book club, women would gather in each others’ homes and use the art of sewing as an excuse to socialize.
“Quilting provided group therapy and it still does in many communities,” Lucy says. “It was their pleasurable downtime and one place they could express themselves.”
That tradition continues with Lucy’s quilt commemorating 40 years of coed education at Lafayette. “It speaks volumes.”