State's great women of history joined in seamless poster quilt

November 27, 1992|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

In the upper left-hand corner, the words of author Gertrude Stein lie interspersed between photos of red roses. To the right, in bright blue and red construction paper, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton lifts a canteen to the lips of an injured union soldier.

Separated by more than a half-century, the two women fit together as seamlessly as the concept that unites them. They are part of a friendship quilt created by nine of the state's female entrepreneurs to honor nine of Maryland's historic women.

Two Howard Countians, Kara Brook and Kathleen Case, devised the multimedia quilt, which is the subject of the 5th annual Maryland State Poster. Three other Howard County women also contributed panels. Gov. William Donald Schaefer unveiled the final product at the Maryland State Fair in September.

DTC "We're very pleased with the poster," said Carol Fox, public information officer for the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, which helped finance the project.

The poster sells for $19.95, but the entire quilt won't be put on display any time soon. It doesn't exist.

Using a computer, Ms. Brook electronically stitched together photos of handicrafts and computer-generated graphics to create the tribute.

"It's exciting, very exciting," Ms. Brook said of the technology she used.

The state tourism office has bought 6,000 copies for a wholesale price of $15,000. It is giving them away to promote the women's historic homes in Maryland and other sites connected to them. On the mailing list are out-of-state travel writers, county tourism directors, restaurant owners and hotel marketing directors. The free copies are not available to the general public.

The poster is also designed to promote the careers of the women who created it. The nine entrepreneurs, which include a photographer and an illustrator, received 100 copies each and money to cover the cost of making their panels. Ms. Brook and Mrs. Case plan to sell the remaining 8,000 or so copies to galleries, tourist shops and the historic sites they celebrate.

"We're not going to get rich off this project," said Mrs. Case, a self-employed corporate writer in Ellicott City. Ms. Brook, a graphic artist who also works out of her house in Ellicott City, said the two spent $21,000 in billable hours to complete the project over the past year.

It all began as a poster to promote the Star Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum in Baltimore. The Flag House was the home of Mary Pickersgill who sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.

But the Flag House couldn't finance the poster on its own, so the women began looking for other historic sites. They eventually compiled a list of famous women and divided them up among their colleagues and friends.

By the time they pitched the idea to the state, a number of women had declared for the U.S. Senate and 1992 was being called "The Year of the Woman." Although it was neither Ms. Brook's nor Mrs. Case's intent, the state seized on the concept as both politically correct and timely.

"Everybody was in love with it," Ms. Fox recalled.

The blending of high- and low-tech began. For Harriet Tubman, one woman stitched together a muslin background. Ms. Brook and Mrs. Case tracked down a photocopy of the founder of the Underground Railroad, but frequent reproduction had washed away one half of her face. Using the computer, Ms. Brook electronically re-created her features.

To create the illusion of three dimensions, Ms. Brook, 27, generated a shadow behind the quilt as it appears on the poster. Eventually, Ms. Brook scanned the panels onto a computer disk -- where it took up 44 megabytes of memory -- and had it printed.

Among the other women honored in the poster are pamphleteer and presidential adviser Ann Ella Carroll, unionist Barbara Fritchie, novelist Sophie Kerr, who endowed the largest annual cash award in American literature; Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint; and Mary Lemist Titcomb, inventor of the bookmobile.

Mrs. Case, 39, said they decided to focus on 18th- and 19th-century women to avoid excluding -- and hurting the feelings of -- anyone still alive.

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