Dorothy Trumpold has lived her entire life in Iowa's Amana Colonies, which have a unique social and religious history. Settlers of these communities, often confused with the Amish, came from Germany and were members of the Community of True Inspiration, a Lutheran sect founded in 1714 and based on the belief that God may communicate through an inspired individual. The group first moved to Ebenezer, New York, and then to Iowa in 1855. There, they established a communal lifestyle in seven villages on 26,000 acres of farmland. The communal way of life endured until 1932.
Dorothy's mother, Catherine Hess, was a seamstress and kitchen worker. Her father, Benjamin Schuerer, was a cooper and farm boss. As a girl, Dorothy learned knitting, crocheting and embroidery. She spent time with her grandfather, Louis Hess, observing him at his loom and helping him prepare shuttles for carpet weaving. By the time she was 12, she had learned to make her own clothes.
At 14, Dorothy graduated from school and began working in the community kitchens of the Amana Colonies. She learned to make crocheted, braided and hooked rugs. In 1932, she went to work in the spinning and weaving departments of one of the woolen mills that served all seven villages. The following year she married Carl Trumpold.
In 1940 she took over carpet weaving from her ailing grandfather. She worked in a one-room building heated by a wood-burning stove. In the late 1940s, the loom was moved to her present residence. She began making throw rugs and then for years made full-sized room carpets. Later she returned to making throw rugs and was still turning out beautiful work in her late eighties, using the cast iron loom her family brought from Europe in the 1840s. She was one of the few practicing artists who lived through the dissolution of the Amana communal life, known as "the Great Change."
Trumpold has long been recognized for her work in Iowa. In 1985, she served as a master artist in the Iowa Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, and for several years she taught a young local girl to weave rugs. She was a featured artist in the Iowa portion of the 1996 Festival of American Folklife and in the Sesquicentennial of Iowa Folklife. In 2001, her work was being shown in an Iowa artists exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center. She and her work are highlighted in Steve Ohrn's books Passing Time and Traditions (1983) and Remaining Faithful (1988).
Govenar, Alan. Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2006.
Mandelbaum, Robb. "Time Warp in the Heartland." Travel Holiday (May 1999) 182, 4: 40.
Dorothy Trumpold interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2001 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Amana Colony Folk Arts, Video, produced by the Amana Arts Guild, courtesy Dorothy Trumpold