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In Memoriam: Joyce Gross, 1924-2012

Joyce GrossJoyce Gross at the opening of "A Legacy of Quilts: The Briscoe Center's Joyce Gross Collection" held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Photo by Harry Cabluck.

In 1969, a University of California at Berkeley history major named Joyce Gross joined a quilting bee. In 1973 she purchased her first quilt for three dollars at a flea market. This past Christmas Eve, she died peacefully, having become a pioneer of the modern quilting movement in the preceding 40 years.

The quilting world owes no small debt to Gross who worked as a quilt collector and quilt historian but also as an editor, publisher, radio participant, researcher, and retreat organizer during a life rich in service and friendship.

In the 1970s Gross began to share her love of quilts and quilt history with the public, organizing quilting tours throughout the nation; hosting her annual retreat in Point Bonita, California; and founding and publishing the Quilters' Journal from 1977 to 1987. In 1980, Gross helped organize the influential American Quilt Study Group.

Over the years, she established herself as a leading historian of twentieth century quilts and quilt makers. In recognition of her service she was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame in 1996 and is also considered a "Quilt Treasure" by the Alliance for American Quilts.

In 2008, The Briscoe Center acquired the Joyce Gross Quilt History Collection, an outstanding collection of historically significant quilts - and related research materials. The collection contains more than 170 quilts, including ones by quilt artists emerging in the 1970s and award-winning quiltmakers from earlier decades, including Pine Eisfeller, Bertha Stenge, Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton, and Florence Peto.

The collection also includes thousands of written items, including correspondence; quilt books and periodicals, exhibit and pattern catalogs, and newspaper clippings, plus scrapbooks, photographs, subject and biographical files, and ephemera.

Joyce Gross was a participant in and a shaper of the quilt revival that began in the 1970s, and she created her collection both to preserve quilt history and to share it. Now her magnificent collection—her legacy—is permanently preserved and available for research, just as she intended. The Briscoe Center joins with many in expressing both gratitude for Joyce's life and sorrow at her passing.

The Briscoe Center is an organized research unit at the University of Texas at Austin.

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