New exhibit at Male Academy


Arnco Village will provide the focus of the next exhibit at the Male Academy Museum, opening this Saturday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m.

Ina Thornton Yates, known to her family as “Big Mom,” learned to quilt at the age of 8, and wound up making quilts for all of her loved ones from her home in the Arnco mill village.

“Some family members came to us with this idea to do an exhibit based on the many beautiful quilts she made for them over the years,” said Jeff Bishop, NCHS executive director.

The newly-reopened Male Academy Museum has featured a successful quilt-themed exhibit this fall, and this seemed like an appropriate follow-up, Bishop said.

“These quilts illustrate the story of one family, and one specific place and time, which I think a lot of people will be able to relate to,” he said.

The new exhibit, called “Labor of Love,” is curated by University of West Georgia graduate research assistant Harvee White, who will begin her second semester with NCHS and the West Georgia public history program in January. The new exhibit will be on display at the Male Academy through February.

“Through this process, I’ve learned so much about the Arnco Village and an incredible woman who lived there – Big Mom,” said White. “Curating this show has also been a wonderful learning opportunity in terms of my history degree program at West Georgia.”

“I called Ina Yates ‘Big Mom,’ which was kind of ironic when you consider that she was not a big woman,” said Teresa Hobbs, her granddaughter.

“We grandkids started making her turn around to measure our height against hers when we had barely started grade school, and she loved it as much as we did. Like the rest of my cousins, I have many treasured memories of my Big Mom.”

As a young woman, Ina married Leon Yates. Together they had six children (though sadly two of them died young.) Leon died at the age of 28 of complications from a car accident. Six weeks after his passing, Ina went to work at the Arnco (Bibb) Mills blanket factory to support her 4 children, all under the age of 8. She worked 35 years, walking to work every day, since she never learned to drive an automobile. Every quilt that she crafted was all sewn by hand – nothing on a sewing machine.

On display will be the old Arnall Mills steam whistle and panels describing daily life at the mill. Many of Big Mom’s quilts will also be on display. A booklet with personal stories from each family member will also be available.

Patterns of quilts on display at “Labor of Love” include the Carpenter’s Wheel, the Double Wedding Ring, the Eight Pointed Star, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, and Little Red School House.

Assisting with the exhibit were family members, including Jenny Grote, and local historian Elizabeth Beers, as well as other NCHS staff members.

The opening will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Male Academy Museum, located at the corner of College Street and Temple Avenue in Newnan. Regular hours for the museum are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1-3 p.m.

“I hope that you all come celebrate a little piece of Newnan’s vibrant history,” said White. “It’s an exhibit I’m proud of and I hope you’ll enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed creating it.”