Aquila had been sewing most of her life. She remembered as a little 5 year old girl, standing behind her mother, watching intently as she sewed; her mother saw her keen interest. Aquila began sewing with her mother from that time on. During the winter months, when it was too cold to go outside, the girls would stay inside and help their mother quilt. When she took home economics classes at Dunbar, she was already so proficient that she was asked to assist the teacher, Ms. Bessie Mason, Dunbar’s first home economics teacher. Aquila soon began sewing for different people in the community. The astronauts’ wives heard about her sewing from their housemaids and friends. Her sewing expertise became well known among the well-to-do whites.
Mrs. Scott Carpenter was quoted in an article in the Houston Chronicle that featured a story on Aquila and her work for the Astronaut’s wives:
“My dressmaker, Mrs. Aquila Burns, is a tiny, soft-spoken woman with graceful gestures, impeccable taste and innate good judgment. We have enjoyed a good friendship over coffee and planning sessions. Her house in Dickinson is often my last stop before that mad drive to the airport to meet Scott.”
Annie Glenn, astronaut John Glenn’s wife, forwarded the article on to Aquila with the following letter.