Leena Rana’s Research Project
‘Amongst the accomplishments necessary to the female character, I think needle work may claim the first place, it having so close a connection with neatness which is indisputably requisite to render you comfortable to yourselves, or amiable to the esteem of others’. Erasmus Darwin, A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education (Philadelphia: J. Ormrod, 1798), p. 240.
YOu SOON WIlL ImPROVe If Learning YOU LOVe
Be YOu TO Others Kind And True AS YOud Ha
ve Others Be TO YOu And neither DO not
SaY TO men whater YOU WOULD NOt Take
Again Fear God And Honour The King
LOve GOd ALOne AlL ThingS AboVe And AS
ThYself Thy NeIghbo r LOve DUty Fear
And Love we owe TO GOd Above
Mary CulleY is mY Name And England IS
MY Nation FInChamstead IS MY Dwelling
Plase And Christ IS MY salvation Finishd
in The 11 Year of mY AGe in The Year 1790.
Thanks TO Mr Saint JOhn FOr GIvIng Me schooling And
I HOPe TO Return it
By GOOd ImProveing GOd save The Church our King.
This is one of nine samplers at the Fitzwilliam Museum which provides some information about the education of the maker, in addition to the name, age, date of completion and moral inscription. Needlework was an accomplishment deemed suitable for girls from both wealthy and impoverished backgrounds, although the function of the finished product would be different. For girls from affluent backgrounds, a sampler might be displayed in the home to prove to family and friends her skill in needlework and good upbringing. For a girl leaving a charity school, however, sampler making would prove to potential employers her ability to sew and mend clothes and linen.
I aim to provide a social history of these samplers to discover information about the schools, such as religious ideologies, curriculum, and also to uncover information about the girls who made these exquisite pieces of work. The schools mentioned on these samplers came from all over the country, from the more established schools and orphanages in London, Bristol and Yorkshire to lesser known, possibly private schools, in Cambridge, Suffolk and the West Midlands. The samplers date from the early decades of the eighteenth century to mid and later decades of the nineteenth century. The school samplers provide a gateway for us to understand the social, cultural and political environments in which these young women lived.