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Bridwell|Art Library

International Honor Quilt

The International Honor Quilt (IHQ) is a collaborative, grassroots feminist art project initiated by Judy Chicago in 1980. It is owned by the University of Louisville and its Hite Institute of Art and Design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the IHQ relevant and important today?

  1. History – It is a time-capsule of historical figures, organizations, events, and periods of change.
  2. Sociology – It is a record of social movements.
  3. Feminism – Its purpose is to memorialize women, women’s work, and aspects of womanhood.
  4. Craft – It showcases a variety of techniques and materials typical of craft and handiwork, and contributes to the significance of Craft as an established genre of contemporary art.
  5. Art History – The collection addresses many important women artists through individual panels. It has a direct association with the iconic feminist work by Judy Chicago “The Dinner Party.” It has a breadth and depth of material techniques. It embodies much of the spirit of feminist art history from the late ‘70ss to early ‘90s.
  6. Material Culture – It is a sampling of the great diversity and prominence of how individuals used materials and traditional craft formats to express personal values. Collectively, it gives an overview of the variety of concerns, heroines, social issues, and personal stories.
  7. Women’s Studies – The collection is an important document of women’s work, culture, history, environment, and characteristics of the grassroots supportive networks that women historically established and operated.
  8. Quilt Culture – It is an extension and modern adaptation of traditional quilt making in the way it was collaboratively produced, supported by a community of women, and a celebratory affair.
  9. Political Science – The collection can be examined in terms of the political climate and representative of the diversity of women’s organization both as honorees and as makers.
  10. Social Justice – The content of many of the panels address activist issues of equality, rights, identity, political organization, social positioning, among other issues.

How is this related to Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party?

The International Honor Quilt was displayed alongside The Dinner Party on its international tour, beginning in Houston, TX in 1980 and continuing until its display in Australia in 1988. Individual pieces were contributed to the project throughout its tour, adding more at each stop on the tour. Because of this method, many of the contributions to the project are corollary to the location of the exhibition venues. Consequently, the IHQ was never exhibited independently or completely until now.

Where has the IHQ been exhibited?

The IHQ travelled with TDP on its tour in the 1980s in the following venues:

  1. University of Houston at Clear Lake City, Houston, Texas, March – May 1980
  2. Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, July – August 1980
  3. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, October 1980 – January 1981
  4. Temple on the Heights, Cleveland, Ohio, May – August 1981
  5. Franklin Building, Chicago, Illinois, September 1981 – February 1982
  6. Musee D’Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, March – May 1982
  7. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, May – July 1982
  8. Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, December 1982 – February 1983
  9. Fox Theater, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, July – October 1983
  10. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, August 1984
  11. The Warehouse, London, England, March – May 1985
  12. Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, West Germany, May – June 1987
  13. Royal Exhibition and Conference Center, Melbourne, Australia, January – March 1988

After the conclusion of The Dinner Party tour, the IHQ was housed by Through the Flower, the non-profit organization founded by Judy Chicago to support feminist art activities. Recognizing the significance of the IHQ as individual commemorative pieces, curators periodically borrowed selections of the panels to include in exhibition projects.

  1. QUILTS, curated by Sandi Fox, Recursos de Santa Fe, Santa Fe Community College, February – March 1995
  2. Sexual Politics, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in Feminist Art History, curated by Dr. Amelia Jones, UCLA Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA, April – September 1996

How is this related to the bigger conversation on Craft and Contemporary Art History?

The IHQ showcases 542 individual panels that are representative of the larger conversation on handicraft and fiber techniques that initiated the issues on the hierarchies of contemporary art and what is considered art. Feminist art movements were fundamental in dismantling traditional categories of art making, particularly those that devalue women’s work.

What is the significance of hand-work / craft work?

It showcases a variety of techniques and materials typical of craft and handiwork, and contributes to the significance of Craft as an established genre of contemporary art.

What is the significance of hand-work / craft work and the IHQ?

These connotations of women working together using traditional craft techniques were a critical element in the art of Judy Chicago and other feminist artists as they sought to reclaim and elevate the traditionally devalued female skills of needlework and other domestic crafts.

Why are these considered feminist art?

The content of the individual panels address numerous feminist issues, or honored important individual feminists and organization, including significant women’s organizations.

What is feminist art history?

Feminist art history is the movement of art that addressed women and women’s issues. As Feminism gained in popularity through the 1960s, its ideology had a large impact on the arts. Issues of womanhood and women’s history were explored through the arts with one of the landmark works being Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party and in accordance the IHQ. While some people focus on craft and resuscitating women’s history, others embodies a feminine aesthetic and focused on breaking down boundaries that blocked access of women and women’s art into traditional art venues, such as museums, galleries, and publications.

What is a Quilting Bee?

A Quilting Bee is a traditional social quilt making gathering where a group of women congregate to collaboratively work on a quilt. The process is characteristic of late 19th and early 20th century work-sharing social occasions that primarily focused on utility and social positioning of women’s work. It emphasized ability in craft as an essential part of femininity, with a focus on utility over aesthetic value.

Is it a quilt?

The initial invitation to contribute to this project requested individuals to make a quilt following specifications established by Judy Chicago: Each quilt was instructed to be a 24” equilateral triangle that listed the name of the honoree as well as their respective city, state and country. These initial specifications served more as a general format than a requirement. While many of the contributions are indeed traditional quilts, the collection is not entirely comprised of quilted fabric objects but rather use the term “quilt” as a loose reference of a flat fabric piece. As a whole collection, especially when installed together on the wall, the project can be considered a quilt, with the individual objects serving as “pieces,” much like pieces of fabric are put together to form a quilt. In this sense, the IHQ as a whole operates under the metaphor of a quilt, both in form and in function.

Are the individual objects quilts? Or is it a quilt as a group?

The IHQ as a whole operates under the metaphor of a quilt, both in form and in function. Not all of the individual contributions are quilts in the traditional definition, and therefore are referred to as panels, pieces, or sections of the whole IHQ.

How is the IHQ related to traditional quilt culture?

Through the initial borrowed format of a “quilting bee,” the IHQ represents a quilt tradition of collaborative, community-driven creative craftwork. Additionally, the subjects, makers, and facilitators of this project were derived from resources tied to the quilt and craft cultures, like women’s quilting guilds.

What is the significance of hand-work / craft work and the IHQ?

There is a long standing tradition of women’s handiwork that the IHQ largely addresses through the individual panels, both in content and in physical format. The IHQ presents a range of skill-level, from highly professional embroiderers to novice art makers. The project is a comprehensive sampling of handiwork from international contributors.

How can I use the collection?

The IHQ is housed in the Hite Institute of Art and Design at the University of Louisville, in Louisville, Kentucky. The IHQ has been photographed, catalogued, and then published as a digital collection under the University of Louisville Library Digital Collections. This digital collection can be accessed freely by the public by visiting the website.

What kind of documentation is available?

Each individual panel has been photographed; both front and back images are available through the digital collection. All additionally supporting materials, such as information sent in by the original makers in the form of letters, newspaper clippings, etc., are available to view at the Hite Institute of Art and Design by appointment.

Can I suggest keywords?

Keywords are a primary search tool for viewers of the Digital Collection. They are often descriptive or vernacular words used as colloquial language. If you would like to suggest an additional term to be used as a searchable keyword, please contact us via email at:

Why are the panels labeled “IQB-#”?

Although the International Honor Quilt was the original name for the project, at various times this project has also been referred to as the International Quilting Bee. The individual panels have been catalogued using the initials “IQB” and a corresponding accession number.

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