Category Archives: San Francisco

Family Quilts

As the end of the month of March nears it also marks the end of National Quilt Month. I photographed the quilt that Alexa’s Great Grandmother, Lily Von Schmidt Mitchell Tilden, made a few years before her wedding. She and her friend Tillie Eggers made it in 1883 while living in San Francisco. Whoever married first got to keep it. Lily married Harrison W. Mitchell in 1885. She had two young daughters, Alexine (1886) and Marion (1888), when Harry died of Bright’s disease in 1890. She was not a single mother for long, marrying Charles Lee Tilden in 1892. The Tildens had one more child, a son, Charles Lee Tilden Jr. 

This pattern is called ‘crazy quilt’ as it uses a wide variety of fabrics and stitches in random patterns. This quilt was all done by hand and is in remarkable shape for being 133 years old. Lily's Quilt

I’m spending the day packing for my next quilt retreat, my fourth one. They remind me of the long history of sewing and quilting that exists in so many cultures around the world. We are all bound together by common threads; the camaraderie and friendship that grows strong among women (and sometimes men) who sit together and sew. At last August’s quilt retreat I learned how to make the Annie Arrowhead block and finished the quilt this spring. The fabric was designed and made by Aborigine fabric artists in Australia. The next retreat promises the beginning of a new quilt as well as the renewal of friendships from the past retreats. Women have been doing this for centuries.Aussie Quilt

Very few quilts still exist from World War I; most were made in 1917 and 1918 and were used in fundraising events for the Red Cross. Most of the ones that do exist are commemorative quilts honoring the soldiers killed in the war.

A book worth reading is  Ruth McHaney Danner’s book: Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time: Inspiring Stories about Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives. (New World Library, 2015).

Alexine Mitchell’s training in San Francisco


Alexine at the Presidio Page-from-79-LMT-Scrapbook-WWI-1917-1918

Alexine, my grandmother, sailed for France at the end of December. Cables home say she reached London on January 20th, 1917 and Le Havre on January 30th. Her mother, Lily Von Schmidt Mitchell Tilden kept a scrapbook of war clippings including anything that mentioned her daughters. Clippings from the same period say such things as “Liners held as U-boats lie in Wait”. I can only imagine how she waited for those telegrams. 

I hope to find out more about her training in San Francisco before she left. She did first aid training at Lane Hospital. I have not yet been able to find anything out about the “pioneer soldierettes at the Presidio national training school.”

A later post will cover what we have learned about her traveling companion, Dorothy Gerberding. 


Newspaper clipping – paper unknown – found in Lily Tilden’s scrapbook of war clippings – transcribed here so it is searchable.


December 29, 1916

Miss Alexine Mitchell Will Leave Tomorrow For Paris to Take Up Her Work

Miss Alexine Mitchell, who with her sister, Miss Marion Mitchell, is widely traveled and who has enjoyed many interesting adventures, will leave tomorrow morning for Paris, to take up the work under Mrs. Lathrop, who is head of the American women in charge of the American Fund for French wounded. Miss Mitchell, who had a cable from Mrs. Lathrop about a month ago, notifying her of a vacancy in the hospital at Toulouse, will go there immediately on her arrival and will later return to headquarters at Paris and from there take part in the distribution of supplies to the different hospital stations with the supply machines, which is the work of the women.

Miss Mitchell said in answer to questions regarding her going: “It is hard work, I know, but I intend to do what I can. I have been intending to go for three months, and have been taking a course in the men’s surgical work at Lane hospital and was rushed through in order to complete the course to leave tomorrow.”

Miss Mitchell will have a companion in Miss Dorothy Gerberding, who will take up the same work, and who is a niece of Mrs. Elizabeth Gerberding of San Francisco, well-known through her efforts for woman’s suffrage.

That Miss Marion Mitchell may develop the same enthusiasm is possible as the interest in the woman’s work in the war countries is great in their home. Miss Mitchell has had interesting experiences with her sister in Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands and the Orient, and both are quick-witted, resourceful and adventurous which are qualities that are much in demand for the work that the Alameda girl has pledged herself to.

Miss Mitchell was one of the pioneer soldierettes at the Presidio national training school, where she was the winner of an honor cockade for excellence in first aid and signaling and for constant attendance for the full six weeks’ term of encampment. Miss Mitchell is the second soldierette to go to the front, the first being Miss Emmeline Childs of Los Angeles, who has joined the Vanderbilt ambulance corps at the French capital.