Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Antebellum Album #2: Lend & Borrow

Antebellum Album #2 
Lend & Borrow by Pat Styring

Emiline F. Cross attended Mount Holyoke Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, thirty miles from her home, graduating from the elite women's academy in 1854 when she was about twenty. She must have been well-liked as classmates made her a gift of an album quilt.

Emiline's quilt from Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth.
Collection of the Blandford, Massachusetts Historical Society

The pattern was also popular. We'd call it Lady of the Lake or Lost Ship. The name Lend & Borrow  refers to the way the red and white shapes shift from positive to negative spaces when it's set like this. Just like last month's block, it's not what we'd think of when we decide to piece a friendship quilt. But Emiline's generation, the first to adapt albums to patchwork, thought the block with two different triangles quite the thing for single pattern or sampler quilts.

Quilt with blocks dated 1839-1843 from the Silber Family collection,
possibly New Jersey. Blocks in this quilt dated 1839 are among
the earliest surviving examples of  friendship style blocks.

Mount Holyoke about 1870. 
Over 300 pupils and teachers lived in the five-story building.

Mary Lyon, 1797-1849

Like founder Mary Lyon, Mt. Holyoke Seminary became a pillar of New England's cultural temple so Southern girls were unlikely to enroll.

Classroom and students about 1870

In a list of  307 students and teachers in Emiline's class of 1853-1854 the majority were from New England states with westerners from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Wisconsin. I counted only one woman who might be considered a Southerner in the class of 1853-54.  (Two others were from St. Louis and Washington City, cities with Southern roots that remained in the Union.)

Sarah Jane Foster traveled from Jonesborough, Tennessee
to South Hadley, Massachusetts for school. Most of
her fellow pupils were from the green Union states here.

Sarah Jane's interest in Mt. Holyoke might have been due to dreams of becoming a missionary. Alumni records indicate she married a widowed missionary in 1860, taught in Oroomiah, Persia and returned to Tennessee in 1869 after his death.

Same classroom, same day

Why did New Jersey's St. Mary's Seminary attract Virginians like Indiana Fletcher while Mt. Holyoke enrolled more girls from the South Pacific than the southern states? It was probably both curriculum and culture. Mt. Holyoke's classes were more academic than schools aiming to turn out cultured wives: Latin and logic, history, philosophy, algebra, music, science and calisthenics followed by examinations described as "severe" by Emily Dickinson. A Mount Holyoke graduate might become a teacher, spreading Miss Lyons's ideals to the next generation.

The Library

Mt. Holyoke's values were embedded in New England's culture of independence, self reliance, reform and improvement. Rather than being waited upon, students shared housekeeping chores. Mary Lyon not only hoped to create devout Christians of her pupils, she also encouraged them to "Attempt great things, accomplish great things." Southern parents would not be pleased to find their daughters returned as unmarriageable blue stockings and reformers.

Olympia Brown was in Emiline's class. 
She may have decided Mt. Holyoke wasn't radical enough
 as she transferred to Antioch College and later
attended theological school, ordained as a minister in 1863.

This pair is thought to be friends 
Emily Dickinson and Kate Turner.

Emily Dickinson attended Mt. Holyoke for the 1847-1848 term. Some speculate the religious focus was too much for the poet. While Mary Lyons ruled religious temperament was graded: students who professed, those who hoped to, and girls without hope. Emily remained in the last group.

How many other Mt. Holyoke students received an album quilt from friends? Emiline's, well documented by Lynne Z. Bassett for the Massachusetts project, is one of two in the literature right now.
This block from missionary Mary Matthews's 1888 album
 would have warmed Miss Lyons's heart.
See the quilt here:

"Sharer in all the joys and sorrows of Holyoke life,
Lizzie Hanmer, Wethersfield, Conn."

The Block

Denniele Bohannon's blue and white version

Students at the Friends' Institute in New York City
made a similar friendship quilt for teacher Patience Smith in 1852
with many names in the appliqued border. See more about this quilt:
One of the many variations of the pattern shown
as a block about 1890 by the Ladies' Art Company,
which called it Lady of the Lake

In repeat block versions the large half-square-triangle
is the block, the smaller triangles form the sashing.


A—Cut 6 dark & 6 light squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half diagonally into 2 triangles. You need 12 light and 12 dark triangles.

B—Cut 1 dark & 1 light square 6-7/8”. Cut each in half diagonally into 2 triangles. You need 1 light and 1 dark triangle.

By Mark Lauer

Album quilt date-inscribed 1842-43.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Another early version in red and white.

The Civil War and After

Here her name is spelled Emeline

Tracking Emiline Cross into the Civil War years reveals she married Edward Lay Tinker, about 15 years older than she in 1856. She died in 1863 leaving two boys---a five-year-old and a baby. Emiline's quilt might have survived only because she did not. It's now in the Blandford Historical Society, the town where she was born.

Emiline's Tennessee classmate Sarah Jane Foster's Civil War was fought far away in Persia. She married widowed missionary Samuel Audley Rhea in Jonesborough May, 1860. By July she was on a boat from Boston to Kurdistan.

Sarah Foster Rhea in the middle east.

She spent the years 1860-1865 with the Kurdish people. You can read her adventures in her husband's biography The Tennessean in Persia & Koordistan.

By Mark Lauer

Sentiment for February

Inked sentiment from an 1854 quilt.
We tend to be perfectionists but many of these inked
blocks were not skillfully drawn. That's called charm.
And if you blot the ink---make it part of the design.

The eagle in the inking

Read Lynne Z. Bassett's essay on Emiline Cross's quilt here:
Dated 1851
A colorful sampler album belonging to the Stratford [Connecticut]
Historical Society includes several versions of this month's block.
From the Connecticut Project & the Quilt Index.

Lend & Borrow by Becky Brown

Post pictures of your blocks in our Facebook group. Ask to join and I'll let you in---or just lurk to watch the fun.
Bookmark this link:

The photos of Mount Holyoke are from this site:


Wendy Caton Reed said...

Thanks for the wonderful history lesson. And, please tell Mark I'd love to send him some neon scraps and see a glimpse of his stash!

Suzanne A said...

You say ". . . schools aiming to turn out cultured wives". Perfect. I haven't heard it put that way before. "Cultured wife" should have been an occupational listing on the census pages. That was still the ideal through the 1950's.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to include some information about Sarah Jane (Foster) Rhea! The other night I came across a couple of letters from her to Reverend Justin Perkins as I was doing a deep dive on some family history. She and her husband, Samuel Audley Rhea, lived in a tiny village called "Memikan" which is located in the Hakkari mountains in SE Turkey. The mission station was based in Oorumiah, Persia (present-day Iran). One of the letters was a condolence letter to Reverend Perkins who had lost his beloved daughter Judith. The other letter discussed the weather and its effect on all their health, amongst other things. But they're written in her handwriting which is super cool! There is a biography about her husband called "A Tennessean in Persia." There was also some correspondence from Emily Dickinson to either Samuel Rhea or Justin Perkins. Can't remember which but I know I saw it a couple of nights ago. In the Amherst Collection (here: