Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Lucy Townsend
Lucy Townsend

To obtain a print-quality JPEG of this photo, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (815) 753-1681 or e-mail

News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

October 4, 2007

Nursing home crafters to donate quilt to NIU
in recognition of DeKalb County one-room schools

DeKalb — Quilters at the DeKalb County Nursing Home will present Northern Illinois University’s Blackwell History of Education Museum with a “DeKalb County One Room Schoolhouse Quilt” at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The attractive quilt features nine squares depicting one-room DeKalb County schoolhouses. The nine schoolhouses represent different regions of the county and are a sampling of the 160 one-room schools that once operated in DeKalb County.

Pat Barger, a seven-year volunteer at the nursing home at 2600 N. Annie Glidden Road, constructed the quilt with the help of the 13 members of a quilting group who gather every Tuesday morning.

“It’s exciting. This quilt is just another expression of interest by people in this county for their heritage,” said Lucy Townsend, curator of the Blackwell and a professor in NIU’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“Quilting is a form of art that women have historically used to express themselves, and most of the teachers in these one-room schools were women.”

The quilt was pieced by Rena Becker, Adella Colby, Lucille French, Jewel Jennings, Marie Madison, Ruth Mosher, Barbara Naker, Alberta Scholl and Ruth Williams with help from Ellie Anthenut, Dorothy Laing and Vivian Slade. Barger machine- and hand-quilted the colorful creation with Mosher’s help.

The women, two of whom attended DeKalb County one-room schools, plan to complete a similar schoolhouse quilt to decorate the nursing home.

It’s just one of four or five projects the group will complete this year. Other projects the women have made include a 50-flag project following the Sept. 11 attacks. The women also produce crafts for a bazaar held every spring.

The gift is particularly meaningful to Townsend and the Blackwell.

NIU is home to the Milan Township One-Room Schoolhouse, located near Huskie Stadium and open to school and community groups from across northern Illinois for vivid lessons of living history.

Townsend also helped the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society to create “Rural School Journeys,” a book of black-and-white photographs of local one-room schoolhouses.

Last year, Batavia elementary school students created three dozen paintings of one-room schoolhouses that were displayed in the Blackwell this spring.

“DeKalb County represents the best of the rural culture in that the soil is very rich. Most farmers struggled during the Depression but ours actually did quite well for themselves. The schools symbolize that whole way of life of the self-sustaining farm,” Townsend said.

“NIU was founded in part because of the rural school situation,” she added. “In the 1890s, there was a hue and cry that the country schools were poorly organized and that children were being deprived of a good education. Placing NIU where it is was the state’s response to that perceived problem.”

Members of the community are invited to view the quilt in the Blackwell Museum, located in the Learning Center of Gable Hall, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 10. For more information, call (815) 753-1236.

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