Known as the designer and maker of the Oklahoma History Quilt, Camille Nixdorf, the only child of Dr. Perry T. and Nancy Nixdorf, was born on April 12, 1882, at Pleasant Farm, Miller County, Missouri. Shortly after Camille's birth her mother died, and she was sent to live with an aunt in St. Elizabeth, Missouri. Nixdorf attended the St. Joseph Academy in St. Louis where she developed her talents in art. In 1900 she married Dr. Joseph R. Phelan, and they moved to Oklahoma City in 1901.
Like other women of her social station, Camille Phelan enjoyed ornamental needlework and joined sewing clubs. Around 1927 she decided to make a quilt portraying Oklahoma history from 1541 (the year of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's expedition through the present Oklahoma Panhandle) to about 1931. She spent two years researching the state's history, selecting prominent Oklahomans and events to be sketched on fifty-four quilt blocks. She worked four year stitching the outlines of the drawings with black silk thread and embroidering the details in pastel colors. After exhibiting her quilt at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Phelan donated it to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1935.
Before her death on July 28, 1946, in Oklahoma City, Phelan was a member of a number of social organizations as well as the organizer and president of the Clara Barton Chapter of the Oklahoma City Red Cross.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Aletha Caldwell Conner, The Oklahoma History Quilt (N.p.: N.p., 1935). Dorothy Cozart, "Camille Nixdorf Phelan: Oklahoma Quiltmaker," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 72 (Winter 1994-95). Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 27 December 1931 and 29 July 1946. Jane Amstutz Harnden and Pamela Frazee Woolbright, Oklahoma Heritage Quilts (Paducah, Ky.: American Quilters Society, 1990). D. W. P. [Dan W. Peery], "Oklahoma History Quilt," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 13 (December 1935). "Quilt," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Linda D. Wilson
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