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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Carol Mohamed Ivy


Mama's Dream World

In her later years, Ethel Wright Mohamed was known internationally as the Grandma Moses of stitchery. But this native of Fame, Mississippi, spent most of her life raising a family and tending to customers at the store she ran with her husband, Hassan Mohamed, in the Delta town of Belzoni.

Hassan immigrated to Mississippi from Sarhine, Syria (now Lebanon), in 1911. When he arrived, he followed in the footsteps of relatives, peddling dry goods and sundries. After a decade or so, Hassan had saved enough money to open a store. Hassan met Ethel when she was a girl of sixteen, working behind the counter at Schlatter’s Bakery in Shaw. They married in 1924.

When Hassan passed away in 1965, Ethel picked up a needle and embroidery floss and began documenting her life: Hassan telling folktales to the children; their housekeeper, Mittie, tending to the stove; the ledger she kept at H. Mohamed General Merchandise. She called her embroideries “memory pictures”.

In 1974 one of Ethel’s memory pictures was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. In an effort to share her work with her new admirers, Ethel turned her home into a living gallery and welcomed visitors to her door. Her children dubbed the place Mama’s Dream World.

Ethel passed away in 1992. In the years since, Carol Mohamed Ivy, the youngest of Ethel and Hassan’s eight children, has continued to celebrate her mother’s legacy, interpreting her family’s story for people who visit Mama’s Dream World to learn about the life and work of Ethel Wright Mohamed.

Date of interview:
2010-07-29 00:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans

Photographer:
Amy Evans

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