Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Quilt honors disabled lesbians


Karen Hampton talks about her memorial textile piece that features disabled lesbians during a program last week at the San Francisco Public Library. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!

A quilt honoring the lives of disabled lesbians is part of an exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library.

The memorial quilt, created by Karen Hampton for Fabled ASP, honors women such as Pat Parker, who was involved with the Black Panthers; Margaret Sloan-Hunter, a founding editor of Ms. magazine; and Mary Gennoy, who ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2000.

The piece is included in "Celebrating Fabulous/Activist Bay Area Lesbians with Disabilities: A 40-Year Retrospective," and is located in the Skylight Gallery on the sixth floor of the library, 100 Larkin Street.

Fabled ASP, or Fabulous/Activist Bay Area Lesbians with Disabilities: A Storytelling Project, is putting on the retrospective with the library's James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center.

Hampton, 52, is an out lesbian who created the quilt. But actually, she pointed out it "is not technically a quilt." She said it's more accurate to call the piece "a stitched textile." The distinction is that a quilt has a backing fabric, a layer of filling, and a top layer that are stitched together.

In Hampton's piece, which incorporates images of the women, the top portion is made from silk and lies directly on top of the back layer, which is linen. She estimated her work's size at seven feet long by four feet wide.

Hampton, a trained weaver who lives in Washington, D.C., didn't know any of the women personally – all of them are deceased – but she feels like she got to know them while working on the project.

Hampton said the work was "a very emotional piece to make."

She was given some research material on the women and then did more background work on her own. For about the first month, "all I was doing was compiling information about the women," she said.

Hampton isn't herself disabled, but when she was a child, her primary caretaker was her disabled grandmother, who used a wheelchair.

"She was the most important person in my life, so I grew up seeing the world from the perspective of being with someone that was disabled," said Hampton.

Hampton got involved with the project after Laura Rifkin, a founder of Fabled ASP, approached her. The two knew each other from a previous project.

She began work on the quilt in early February 2009 and finished it about three and a half months later.

Rifkin said Hampton "brought art to bear on something that is hard to tell on just a regular narrative, and she opens up a different channel of communication through her art."

The sixth floor, which includes the quilt, contains the main part of the exhibition, which runs through November 21. The Hormel Center, which is on the third floor, includes photographs and other tributes to individual activists.

Tonight (Thursday, October 14) at 6 p.m. the library will play host to "Writing Our Word, Speaking Our Minds, Telling our Stories," which is related to the exhibition. The program will be in the Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room.

For more information, visit

Follow The Bay Area Reporter
facebook logo
facebook logo
Newsletter logo
Newsletter logo
ISSUU logo