Martha Hefner Mulinix

By Susan Fisher

Martha Hefner Mulinix was born in Zone, Georgia. Her mother was the postmistress in the little Walker County hamlet located in a valley in the mountains. Because there was no railroad close by, the mail came by horseback from Calhoun and then by a Model T Ford from La Fayette. During the Depression Martha’s father worked for the Central of Georgia Railroad. She says, “We lived wherever the railroad sent him.”

She went to high school in Rome at the Berry School where she met her husband, Eugene, who she has always called Mulinix. Both started college at Berry, but while Martha continued on to graduate in 1944, Mulinix dropped out to join the Army Air Force. The two eloped in December of 1943, but kept their marriage a secret. In those days a married woman could not remain at the school. “Little Hef” as she was known then because her older sister was also at Berry, didn’t disclose her real wedding date to her classmates until decades later at a class reunion!

During the war while Mulinix was overseas and her father was foreman of a construction gang that followed big jobs around, Martha and her mother moved to a farm near her childhood home. This was when she began quilting.

Her mother’s family considered quilting a “Salvage Art”. She remembered, “They grew cotton and worked up scraps. I wanted to do something productive while Mulinix was overseas.” As a child she had made a stack of 9 Patch blocks that she had kept through many moves and life experiences. With the help of a neighbor, she finally finished that quilt during Mulinix’s absence. The blocks were of various sizes, but her neighbor simply cut them all to the smallest size and Martha finished the quilt. “It’s a peculiar looking quilt, but it’s hanging on a rack in our guest room and is still used.” Martha remembers those early quilting days as “good times”. She would plan the quilts and her mother would make them.

The Mulinixes moved to his childhood home in Bartow County, where they still live, in 1945. Martha worked as a counselor in public schools from 1949 to 1968. She was involved with the art council in Cartersville, ending up on the Craft Committee. Each committee had to do something for the community. Someone suggested that Martha teach quilting. When she protested that she certainly wasn’t qualified she was told, “You can teach and you can quilt so you can teach quilting!” Martha calls that first class an independent study. “We all learned together.” She went on to teach for the Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department and eventually in her home where her students included Rosie Wade, founder of the Georgia Quilt Council.

Martha’s son Victor built her a quilting frame copied from one his grandfather had made in the 1920s. Martha, Mulinix and the freestanding frame went to various needlework shows where she conducted “Audience Participation Demonstrations”. She had people put in some stitches and then sign a notebook. Meanwhile people liked the frame and placed their orders. Victor, who made reproduction furniture for craft shows, soon tired of making an endless number of frames, so Mulinix stepped in to fill the orders. For years he and Martha delivered every frame and put in the buyer’s first quilt. “He can still put a quilt in a frame better than I can.”

A week’s demonstration at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair led to another booking during the final Best of Festival week. The Mulinixes traveled to workshops, festivals and quilt shows demonstrating quilting. They produced quilt shows in Cartersville and Barnsley Gardens and well remember the blizzard of 1993 that they weathered in their motor home parked behind Bulloch Hall where they were participating in the annual quilt show.

Vision problems now prevent Martha from quilting. She calls herself a “quilting has-been” which is far from the truth. Rather, she is a “quilting treasure” who has contributed immeasurably to the quilting history of Georgia.

December 2004