Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bonnie Leman of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine

Somewhere in the hubbub of the holiday season, I missed hearing the sad news that Bonnie Leman, founder of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, passed away on September 4, 2010.

According to The Denver Post, Bonnie "found her calling in the publishing business, when, in 1969, she founded Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. Through her magazine she helped revive and foster an appreciation of quilts as a great American art form that continues to this day. Bonnie grew her magazine readership to more than 200,000 subscribers in over 100 countries, as well as writing and publishing numerous books and other publications on quiltmaking. She traveled much of the world in the course of her career, made hundreds of friends, and contributed to the growth of the quiltmaking art in many countries."

When Bonnie began publishing her magazine, it was the only magazine on the market devoted solely to quilting. Before very long at all, Quilter's Newsletter Magazine was the magazine you had to have if you were to consider yourself a "real" quilter. And, indeed, I have managed over the years to collect every single issue from that first one in 1969, until the present day. My favorites are the ones in the 100 series (the 1970s and early 1980s). There is so much good information packed into the pages of those issues that they are hard to put down once picked up. Here's a copy of what the very first magazine looked like:

Bonnie typed those first magazine issues at the kitchen table using a manual typewriter. And, on the day that very first issue was published, she was at the hospital giving birth to her seventh child. Her staff back then consisted of her children. There is no way she could have fathomed the tremendous impact she would have on quilters all over the world. From that tiny seed, she grew a giant oak of a publication. Forty-two years later, here is a copy of what the latest issue looks like:

Clearly, both the magazine and the quilting industry have come a very long way since Bonnie pounded out that first issue at her kitchen table. Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman has composed a lovely tribute to Bonnie, whom she credits as giving her a start as a published author. You can read it by visiting her blog, Material Culture. Bonnie was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame in 1982. You can read their tribute to Bonnie on the Quilter's Hall of Fame blog.

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