Toys that prepped a girl for ‘women’s work’
  • Native American girl in needlepoint
  • A woman, her dowry and needlepoint
  • " />
    Auction Finds

    Needlepoint samplers – a girl’s work

    Whenever I spot a sampler at auction, I always pause a minute to look it over. I wonder about the girl behind it – boys didn’t often stitch them – and what it says about her.

    The sewing of the earliest samplers – not the ones I see on my auction tables – were a rite of passage, a way for the girls to learn basic needlepoint skills. It’s what their mothers did when they were girls and what the girls were expected to do. They used them to record the alphabets, learn numbers, and sew what they saw around them and what they were taught, especially religious messages.

    The ones I come observe always seem to be in a state of disrepair, a bit tattered around the edges, like a mouse had gnawed on them. One website noted that the ratty ones were likely not framed, and the fabric may have just faded as a result. Those considered pictures were cherished, framed, hung on a wall and thus preserved.

    At auction recently, I came across a pretty little sampler in a frame, still in good condition, even though the fabric was slightly yellowed from the light. It had the children’s prayer “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” stitched in it, with Noah’s Ark, pairs of animals and a border enveloping it. I’m not sure how old it was. On the floor among some other paintings were a handful of newer ones – done in knitting wool and fiber.

    The themes on the earliest samplers were very simplistic, with the girls following the pattern of tradition: A favorite saying, the names of family members, a picture of the family, school or house, flowers, trees and vegetation, along with personal or religious messages, as well as the alphabets and numbers. Some were done on simple kitchen linens.

    That was their life and culture, and part of their education. By the mid-19th century, girls around the age of 5 or 6 were expected to make samplers, the first of which was a marking sampler, which helped them to learn stitches, letters and numerals and learn to read, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. This was usually done with a mother or grandmother. If the girl was from a well-to-do family she would go off to a boarding school where she’d learn to stitch the more pictorial silk embroidered pieces.  

    For some time, there was some question about whether black girls created samplers. The answer: yes.

    Last year, the Winterthur Museum purchased two samplers made by African American girls: Olevia Parker at the Lombard Street School in Philadelphia in 1852 and Rachel Ann Lee, at the Oblate Sisters of Providence School for Colored Girls in Baltimore in 1846. Interestingly, it was noted that the figures in the samplers were white rather than the skin color of the black girls. There are also a handful more out there.  

    On its website, the Oblate Sisters are said to have the largest selection of samplers done by black girls. The samplers are just beautiful.

    I found in my research that samplers stitched by black girls tend to cost more, likely because they are so rare. As one site noted, those by white girls can bring in under a thousand dollars, but one by Samaria Gaines, an Oblates girl whose sampler is in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, was listed in 2004 for $24,000.

    The highest price paid for any sampler was more than $467,000 at an auction last year, a world record, according to the Antique Trader website. It was a silk-on-linen piece sewn by Betsey Bentley of Boston (daughter of the man who rowed Paul Revere across the river in his historic trek) in 1781. Written on it: “Betsey Bentley, Her Sampler in the 13 Year of Her Age.”

    You can view samplers of both black and white girls in Maryland from the book “Maryland Schoolgirl Samplers & Embroideries, 1738- 1860″ by Gloria Seaman Allen. They are from a 2007 exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society.

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has its earliest dated from 1735, the Lydia Dickman sampler. Here are more beautiful samplers to enjoy.

    Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,

    Leave a Response

    Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

    bbc galapagos las islas que cambiaron el mundogalapagos cruise reviewsbest cruise ships galapagos islandsbest family galapagos cruisebest time to go to galapagos and machu picchubest time to go to peru and galapagosbiotech bedrijf galapagosbiotechnologiebedrijf galapagosbudget galapagos boat toursbudget galapagos cruise pricescaracteristicas de las islas galapagos antiguascaracteristicas de las islas galapagos flora y faunacaracteristicas de las islas galapagos mas antiguascaracteristicas islas antiguas galapagoscaracteristicas islas mas antiguas galapagoscelebrity cruise galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruise lines galapagos islandscelebrity cruises galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruises galapagos reviewscelebrity cruises galapagos xpeditioncelebrity xpedition galapagos 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos cancelledcelebrity xpedition galapagos cruisecelebrity xpedition galapagos cruise 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos excursionscelebrity xpedition galapagos machu picchucelebrity xpedition galapagos price