Women in Kentucky - Art

Jane Burch Cochran: Jane Burch Cochran is a quilter who constantly pushes the boundaries of the traditional art of quilting. She started making small fiber pieces in 1979 and made her first large quilt in 1985. She creates multi-textured quilts, embellishing them with beads, sequins, paint, and found objects. Sometimes the objects she uses are particularly cherished ones, belonging to her grandmothers or their friends.

“Strong but gentle women have been a constant in my life from my grandmothers, great aunts and especially my mother, Mildred James Burch,” she says. They instilled in Cochran “the pleasure and love of the arts, be they music or visual.”

We tend to think of quilting as an act of utilitarian labor, not the creation of art. For centuries, they were sewn together to keep people warm. But quilters like Jane Burch Cochran view their quilts as art and force us to look again at quilts made seemingly only to provide warmth. Her “Coming Home: Kentucky Women” quilt now hangs at the Kentucky History Center. She wanted to honor the women who were connected to her Kentucky roots, so she created a list of famous and not-so-famous Kentucky women through this quilt. Each woman’s name is stamped on brightly colored individual strips with paint over fabric.

Cochran’s awards include a Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and an Al Smith Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including Fiber Arts, Surface Design and American Craft.

About her art

In my art quilts, I try to combine my art training in painting, my love of fabric and the tradition of American quilting. I unconsciously combine the loose, free feeling of abstract painting with the time consuming and controlled techniques of sewing and beading. Although my work has its roots in Victorian crazy quilts and Native American beadwork, the nostalgia is off set by my interpretations as an artist living today. I continue to use common symbols and quilt patterns and to recycle old gloves and other materials to create a new narrative. The gloves (hands) are reaching and searching for both questions and answers about race, the environment, and the human psyche. My quilts are highly embellished with beads, buttons, and paint to enhance the narrative with a unique and personal texture.

I use strip piecing to make my patchwork. I do not measure but just start cutting and sewing strips usually in combinations of three strips. I then cut these apart into smaller pieces and just keep sewing and adding until it grows into large enough patches to use. I love to create the patchwork. It's like making lots of small paintings. I then appliqué the patchwork and other pieces to a background using bugle beads or seed beads.


Jane Burch Cochran

SIZE: 68"1 x 71"w COMPLETED: 1999

MATERIALS: old organdy dress, gloves, old embroidery, handkerchief, embroidered roses, various fabric, beads, buttons, sequins, paint, glitter

METHODS: machine pieced, hand appliquéd using beads, hand embellished, words stamped with rubber stamp alphabet using fabric paint.

In 1920, women got the right to vote. During the World Wars, women left the home to work and Rosie the Riveter became the symbol with her slogan "We can do it!" More recently, I heard the term "granny hackers" from a computer expert referring to older women who learned the computer. Even without grandchildren, I am a "granny hacker." The "V for Victory" handkerchief reminds me how the V symbol now also refers to peace. The old flag embroidery was a lucky find.

At 21, I visited the Louvre and will always remember the "winged victory" in a stair alcove. Connie Iskin gave me the old, white organdy dress. I envisioned a winged victory figure with wings made from gloves.

Instead of specific women's names, I made a list of words or phrases. Like life, some are important and some are inane. The words were stamped with textile paint using a rubber stamp alphabet.

I did find a quote I wanted to use and stamped it on rose silk and sewed it in the quilt. It didn't look right visually - too many words competing with those on the dress but I want to share the quote. The words can inspire anyone but were said by a most remarkable American woman, Helen Keller. "I fall, I stand still . . . I trudge on, I gain a little . . . get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory."


Assisted by Michelle Lustenberg

Name quilts are a tradition in quilt making. This quilt contains over 200 names of Kentucky women from the tribe names of early Native American cultures to familiar names of today. . . I decided to make this quilt as a change of pace and began it as my own tribute to Kentucky for our bicentennial in 1992. I worked on it for a couple of years in between other quilts. We stamped the names using a rubber stamp alphabet and acrylic paint on different strips of fabric. I than constructed the quilt based on color and composition. I wanted the names just to blend into the quilt and be seen as a part of the design from a distance.

The best part of the project was all of the Kentucky history we learned and to be reminded of the important contributions women have made to Kentucky and all of society.

Click here to get informations in german!

Site Overview


A. What

Performing Arts
Public Service

B. When

View a selected history of women
View a selected history of women
Sounds and images
Civil War Diaries

C. Where

Central / Northern Kentucky
Western Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky
Southern Kentucky


Selected Readings
Educational Tools
Web tools
Archival Collections
Children's Books

E. About this Project

Women in Sports:

Minnie Adkins
Elizabeth Barret, Anne Lewis, Mimi Pickering, & Justine Richardson
Jane Burch Cochran
Joan Dance
Enid Yandell

Women in Business:

Nelda Barton-Collings
Julia Dinsmore
Laura Freeman
Mattie Mack
Lena Madesin Phillips
Caroline Burnam Taylor

Women in Education:

Helen Lew Lang
Katherine Pettit
Jane Stephenson
Cora Wilson Stewart

Women in Health/Medicine:

Mary Britton
Linda Neville
Ora Framer Porter
Louise Southgate, M.D.

Women in Journalism:

Linda Boileau
Alice Allison Dunnigan

Women in Law:

Pearl Carter Pace
Lt. Colonel Linda Smith

Women in Literature:

Effie Waller Smith

Women in Military:

Lt. Anna Mac Clarke
Capt. Helen Horlacher Evans
Julia Ann Marcum

Women in Music:

Sarah Ogan Gunning
Helen Humes
Lily May Ledford
Reel World String Band
Jean Ritchie
Mary Wheeler

Women as Pioneers:

Esther Whitley

Women in Public Service:

Governor Martha Layne Collins
Emma Guy Cromwell
Rep. Mary Elliott Flanery
Sen. Georgia Davis Powers
Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall

Women in Reform:

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Laura Clay
Eula Hall
Josephine Henry
Belinda Mason
Lois Morris
Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain
Charlotte Richardson
Joan Robinett
Mary Sue Whayne
Corinne Whitehead
Evelyn Williams

Women in Religion:

Eldress Nancy Moore
Rabbi Gaylia Rooks

Women in Science:

Sarah Frances Price
Ellen Churchill Semple

Women in Sports:

Terri Cecil-Ramsey
Geri Grigsby
Audrey Whitlock Peterson
Mary T. Meagher Plant