sampler

Sampler, 1836, Sarah Ann Kemp, linen, wool, silk, H: 20.5in. x W: 21in., New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Jane Clark, N0014.2011.06. Photograph by Richard Walker.

The sampler was an iconic symbol of what was available in the ways of education for women in Western European and American societies of the 18th century  up to the mid 19th century. A sampler was in many ways a reflection of wealth for the families of the creators. A sampler with a great amount of detail which contained extensive amounts of literary elements reflected status, for this itself was an indication of a family which could afford not only the materials required but the level of education which would instill literacy upon the girl (a luxury which was relatively rare in this time period as boys were often given priority for education).[1] The following sampler is an excellent example of a product from a girl belonging to the upper echelons of society.

The sampler itself has a linen ground with threads composed of wool and silk. The presence of silk in significant amounts alone suggests a girl who belongs to a family of means as silk was a luxury substance. The sampler contains two components: extensive iconography and a poem. Both of these components are indicative of wealth and learning.

The imagery found in the sampler consists of various floral motifs, an eagle in the top center, and a stag resting under a tree. While the symbolism behind these images is unclear, the detail with which they have been composed suggests an individual of great talent and learning. Each figure has been carefully cross stitched and the images, while three separate components, are cleverly adapted to form a perfect border. A great deal of time and skill would be required for the creation of this sampler.

Sampler

Sampler, 1836, Sarah Ann Kemp, linen, wool, silk, H: 20.5 x W: 21 in., New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Jane Clark, N0014.2011.06. Photography by Richard Walker.

A major indication of the maker’s education is the poem found within the sampler. The poem in question is titled Love to God Produces Love to Men. This poem can be found in a compendium called Introduction to the English Reader, published in 1831. In the introduction of the book, the author states its purpose being “…work tending to season the minds of children with piety and virtue, and improve them in reading, language, and sentiment..” [2] This is an indication of schooling for the maker of this sampler, as she would have found this poem within one of these books and would have been taught the importance of maintaining virtue and piety as two of the most important traits for a woman of the higher class. The poem itself suggests teaching the virtue of hospitality through the lens of Christian religious ideology. Such education would convey the fact that the maker of this sampler was being taught the proper way to run a homestead, another major purpose of education for young women and girls in this time period.[3] The level of education is highly apparent when considering the age of the maker, who states in the sampler itself that she is 10 years old.

This sampler is an excellent representation of early learning for women in the upper class in the early 19th century.

By: Geoffrey Starks

[1] Peck, Amelia. “American Needlework in the Eighteenth Century.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/need/hd_need.htm (October 2003)

[2] Murray, Lindley. “Introduction to the English Reader: A Selection of Pieces in Prose and Poetry Calculated to Improve the Younger Classes of Learners in Reading and to Imbue Their Minds with the Love of Virtue ” (New York, NY: Collins and Co., 1831): iii-iv.

[3]Peck, Amelia. “American Needlework in the Eighteenth Century.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/need/hd_need.htm (October 2003)

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