Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Mary Woodward Davis



Honored May, 1987

Mary Woodard Davis

Born in Dewey Oklahoma, in 1901, when the region was still Indian territory, Mary Woodard Davis enjoyed a multifaceted career that took her to Broadway and Europe before bringing her to Santa Fe.

Whether designing sets with Cecil Beaton for My Fair Lady, teaching Turkish women to quilt, or creating commissioned pieces of her own textile art at age eighty-seven, she had no qualms about following her own direction wherever it led. "I've always been my own person, she said. "I've never been in one niche in life."

Mary's charmed path led her to careers in the New York theater as an actress, director, producer, costume and set designer, and theater owner; she also became a university professor and textile artist. During her career Mary worked with people as diverse as Marlene Dietrich and Turkish women living behind the veil.

One of seven children, Mary learned her sustaining craft of needlework early in life. Her father, an attorney and legal expert in Indian land titles, was also a strong believer in education. He sent Mary to convent school in Kansas City, Missouri, where she learned fine needlework, drawing and painting, the springboard for her later artistic success. Other individuals who influenced this future master quilt artist were an aunt, who taught Mary to do a five-patch by the time she was five years old, and the Ozark quilters she met in Arkansas early in the century.