It was her own journey as an immigrant that motivated Gerrie Akkerman to work on creating a Canada 150 quilt, currently on display at the Museum of Industry.
Akkerman came to Canada from Holland in 1954 and jokes, “I’m a new Canadian.”
Born and raised in Holland, she and her husband came to Toronto first, then to Stellarton where her husband Bill worked for Clairtone. “Here is where we became Canadians.”
For a Canada 150 project, this immigrant-turned-Canadian citizen spearheaded a quilt making project honouring Canadian pioneering women.
“This is why it inspired me,” she smiled. “The whole project intrigued me.”
Akkerman is a member of the Museum Quilters, who quilt on a regular basis in the museum’s demonstration workshop area. They can be found there greeting guests and demonstrating their art and talking about quilting which was part of the traditional role of a housewife.
The group finished the red and white queen-sized quilt to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday. The quilt is comprised of 150 red and white blocks and the project was about learning of 150 inspiring Canadian pioneer women from yesterday through to today. Each week for 50 weeks, three Canadian pioneer women were chosen.
Denise Taylor, marketing director at the museum said, “It was an opportunity for quilters to learn more about our Canadian heritage.”
The pioneering women were entrepreneurs of their time — feisty, head strong women who blazed a trail for all the women coming behind them.
Akkerman found them inspirational and loved to learn about them while quilting.
She learned about Nova Scotian Viola Desmond, who challenged racial segregation by refusing to leave her seat in the whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow in 1946. And Maj. Margaret C. MacDonald from Bailey’s Brook who became matron-in-chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) and was the first woman to be given a ‘Major’ rank in the British Empire.
Akkerman worked on the individual pieces of the quilt at home and when she was finished she brought it to the Museum Quilters who continued to hand quilted every seam from there. The project took about six months to complete.
What began centuries ago as ‘women’s work’ continues today. As in years gone by when women would gather and bond at a quilting bee creating the blankets, hooking rugs and other household chores in a social setting, the Museum Quilters gather together every Wednesday at the museum and work on the quilt, sharing stories of their family life or community news, and learning about pioneering women who made their mark in Canadian history.
The 150 Canadian Women quilt program was created to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017. The hope behind the project was the 150 Canadian pioneering women would inspire the quilters to learn more about them and other Canadian woman, and inspire the quilters to pursue their own interests and dreams and grab opportunities.
It did just tht for Gerrie Akkerman.
The quilt will be on display at the museum until the end of October.
Gerrie Akkerman poses with the red and white quilt made by the Museum Quilters to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Each block is six inches square and ranges from simple to finicky but all levels of quilters would be able to complete each block. The blocks feature everything from half square triangle squares to flying geese and one has a maple leaf (INSET). The fabric was all donated by quilters or friends and no two square are alike. The quilt will be on display at the museum until the end of October. (Jardine photo)