Kathleen “Katie” Orea Sweeney (1932-2014) was a collector, scholar, educator, and advocate for the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Not unlike the collection’s namesake, Katie traveled extensively to explore the diverse techniques, uses, and meanings of textiles from around the world.
An occupational therapist with the State of Wisconsin, she was active in local textile organizations and amassed her own collection of textile-related artifacts, including tools used to make the pieces she collected. In honor of her Irish and Norwegian heritage, she collected Irish lace and Sami tin thread embroidery. Katie eagerly shared her textile knowledge, frequently speaking to community groups and exhibiting at Irish Fest in Milwaukee. In her lifetime and through her estate, Katie chose to honor the two women who influenced her interests, establishing the Ruth Ketterer Harris Memorial Lectureship and donating many exceptional textiles and her extensive reference library to the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.