Marking NM’s Historic Women: Estella Garcia & the Women of the WPA, Fabric Artists

Photo Credit: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Stella Garcia and her colcha embroidery class, Federal Art Project (WPA), Melrose, New Mexico. (Estella Garciá standing. Fourth artist from the left identified as Rita Rodríguez Chávez)
Date: circa 1936
POG Negative Number 090204

(SIDE 1) Estella García taught colcha embroidery at Melrose, New Mexico, for the Federal Arts Program in the 1930s. Anglo and Hispana women in Garcia’s class collaborated to design and produce embroidered theater curtains, wall hangings, and seat coverings for institutions across the state including the Albuquerque Little Theatre. Garcia is one of the few Hispanic women artists recorded in FAP documents. Unfortunately, few examples of her work remain. (SIDE 2) Under the umbrella of the WPA, the National Youth Administration, and the Federal Arts Program, instructors and students were recruited to work in community-based art centers that produced fabric arts, including weaving, colcha embroidery, and lace-making. While the artistic creativity of these mostly unrecognized women was considered “women’s work for home use” by WPA administrators, this now popular New Mexican art form has been revitalized.

Roadside Marker Location: Curry County, US Hwy 60/84, Mile Marker 336.18

You can view a county by county list of the Historic Women Mile Markers in this pdf.

You can view a map of the Historic Women Mile Markers at

March is Women’s History Month. During this month we’ll be highlighting some of the women featured on New Mexico’s Historic Women Roadside Markers. Text provided by our colleagues at New Mexico Historic Preservation Division

From the Collection:

NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001

Do any of you participate in sewing clubs or quilting bees?

This 1917-1918 undyed cotton muslin quilt was made by members of the Anniston So and Sew Club, as the center square reads. Constructed of 10” x 10” squares laid out in a diamond pattern, each square is embroidered with a club member’s name and date. Some squares have “Logan, NM” or “San Jon, NM” as well, noting the location of the So and Sew in Quay County. Both the seams where squares are joined and the squares themselves are embellished with multicolored embroidery. This piece is completely hand quilted and measures 71.5” x 85.5”.

NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001
NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001

Making History: Upcycle Old T-shirts into Tote Bags

Join New Mexico History Museum Educator, Melanie LaBorwit in upcycling an old t-shirt to make a brand new tote bag…with a bonus tip too.

This month’s Making History activity is a nod to the spirit of the exhibit “Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest” which was hosted by the New Mexico History Museum in 2017 & 2018 and is now available to experience in an online experience. Making History is a Monthly series, which is held on the first Sunday of each month at the New Mexico History Museum. visit us online at: on facebook: @NewMexicoHistoryMuseum

Making History: In a New Mexico Garden

Making History is the New Mexico History Museum’s monthly series of hands-on activities that further illuminates the Museum’s collections as well as New Mexico’s heritage of historic technologies and crafts. The Making History Program is family friendly and open to everyone.

With the Museum being closed due to the COVID-19 mitigation efforts, this month’s Making History Program has gone online in two parts.

Join museum Educator Melanie LaBorwit as she demonstrates how to make pots for your seedlings using a newspaper in Part 1, and in Part 2, Melanie will show you how to give nourishment to your feathered neighbors by making a bird feeder from an orange and some twine.

Enjoy these activites to enhance your garden and check back next month for a new making opportunity.

Making History: In A New Mexico Garden Part 1
Making History: In A New Mexico Garden Part 2