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NE Kan. woman stitches a bit of political history

Published on -11/24/2012, 3:13 PM

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LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) -- By her own count, Martha Jones has made at least 300 quilts over the past two decades. With her latest work, relying on help from cooperative politicians, she has made a bit of history.

The Leavenworth woman recently finished a red, white and blue quilt containing 24 blocks with the signatures of current and past elected officials including former President Bill Clinton and the man he defeated in his 1996 re-election bid, former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.

"I didn't care if they were Democrats or Republicans," Jones told The Leavenworth Times (http://bit.ly/UgMYdl ). "I just wanted political leaders."

Jones said she has been a quilter for the past 20 years or so, since she retired from the McLouth School District. Her creations went to family and friends and to soldiers stationed overseas.

But something bigger came to mind when she read in a magazine about a quilt made from blocks with signatures from President Abraham Lincoln, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas -- whom Lincoln famously debated in 1858 -- and other political luminaries of that era.

"I thought, if she could do it, I could do it," Jones said of the woman who made that earlier political quilt.

Jones first set out to get signatures from every member of Congress, which would have meant several hundred requests. At some point, she said, she settled for as many as she could get from across the executive and legislative branches.

She mailed off letters to dozens of current and former officials, enclosing with each letter a permanent marker and a quilt block. Clinton was the first to respond.

"I think that's the neatest one, because it was the first," she said. "It was so exciting to get it back."

Others followed, from Kansas and beyond. Among the Kansans represented on the finished quilt are U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Sen. Pat Roberts, both Republicans; former senator and now-Gov. Sam Brownback; and his predecessor as governor, Democrat Mark Parkinson.

"Some of them wrote notes with the block," Jones said. She intends to keep all of the correspondence.

Jones estimates that for every 10 requests she sent, she received two responses. Vice President Joe Biden responded; former President Jimmy Carter and current President Barack Obama did not, but she said she understood.

"He's pretty busy running the country," she said of Obama.

If more signatures come in, Jones said, she might stitch another signature quilt. But for now, she's enjoying the culmination of two years' labor.

"I'll pass it down to my children," she said. "I could never use it or even wash it. I just want to keep it. Out of the quilts I've made, probably 300 or more, it's my favorite. It's history."

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