Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Antebellum Album #6 Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Pat Styring

Southern girls educated at Northern boarding schools risked "imbibing habits and manners not perfectly congenial with those of the people of the South," warned an Alabama parent. Cautious planters and urban aristocrats had the option of pricey schools closer to home. Among the elite academies was Madame Talvande's French School for Young Ladies, L'École pour Demoiselles, in Charleston, South Carolina, run by a family of Haitian refugees.

Madame Talvande's school building still stands,
 known today as the Sword Gate House.

Mary Boykin Miller (1823-1886) soon after her marriage to 
James Chesnut in 1840.

Mary Miller, a student in the late 1830s, recalled Madame as,"the Tyrant of Legare St." who was forced to seek U.S. asylum by revolution in Haiti, then called St. Domingue.

The Haitian uprising (1791-1804) was the most successful of
the slave revolutions, creating the second 
independent country in the Western hemisphere.
"She wasted no time in vain regrets, or in thoughts of what was due her by God and man---on account of her social position---before the social earthquake; but she at once took measures to utilize her rare accomplishments, and to make them pay." 
Madame's accomplishments: She was a native French speaker and a force to be reckoned with. The Eastern U.S. was dotted with what were called French Schools run by exiles from Europe and the Caribbean with just those gifts.

Unknown school. Class picture with Madame?
About 1860

Mary was a favorite student, invited to sit at Madame's table during meals, conversing skillfully in the required French. (English was forbidden.) Classmate Susan Petigru was not so favored. Sue did not thrive in French and believed that girls in her elite position wasted time and tuition on education.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

Sue and Mary had much in common besides social class. Both were gifted writers and conversationalists, witty and outspoken. But Mary knew the limits for Southern womanhood. Sue never accepted the conventions, earning a lifelong reputation as a "fast woman."

Sue published popular novels pushing those limits in the 1850s. Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut wrote novels too, but she's remembered for her Civil War diary, while Sue Petigru King is forgotten except by those who relish a scandalous life story.

Older sister Caroline Petigru Carson (1820–1892)
 enjoyed her years at Madame Talvande's
more than Sue did. The 1841 portrait is by Thomas Sully,
Collection: Gibbes Museum of Art

Chintz album quilt. Signatures from
Columbia, Charleston, Savannah, Danbury, 
Connecticut & New York
sold at Skinner's Auctions.

Quilt dated 1848, Eudora F. Davis,
Sumter District, South Carolina. Online auction.
Other names include Clark.

Finding antebellum South Carolina album quilts with pieced blocks is almost as hard as finding Yankee pupils in Carolina girls' schools.

Cut-out-chintz applique is the dominant style in pre-Civil-War
South Carolina signature quilts but here are some familiar pieced designs.
(We are not going to do the pale blue sunburst!)

Madame Talvande's "had two or three distinct cliques," wrote Mary in a thinly veiled novel about school days. She classified herself (and probably Sue) as among the English girls---those "of Cavalier stock" (meaning descended from English aristocrats). There were "The French speaking [Catholic] refugees from St. Domingo of whom Madame was a distinguished representative. wonderfully handsome girls... gayer and less studious than Charleston proper...." Then the "Huguenots...not ashamed then to be both American and protestants." She lists their traits: piety, thrift, industry, energy and worldly wisdom, "stiff necked, with somewhat of a hard narrowness." The always observant Mary could bite.

Mary's parents removed her from Madame Talvande's after gossip she was seen walking with James Chesnut, six years older.

James and Mary married when she was 17.
He was a clerk in Sue's father's law office.

Once the Millers met Mary's callers in frontier Mississippi, a temporary home, they sent her right back to Charleston. Sue's stay at Madame Talvande's was short. Hoping perhaps for more polish, her parents enrolled her in a French School in Philadelphia, which she didn't like any better than she did Philadelphia or the North.

Mix of chintz and calico styles in an album dated 1843
from the Philadelphia/NJ area, 
made by Hannah Nicholson Grave's Quaker relatives.
Collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

See a post on Hannah Grave's three quilts here:

Links between Carolina students and Philadelphia schools seems to have been one agent of design transmission. Girls like Sue (if Sue noticed needlework at all) would have brought new Philadelphia fashion back home.

The Block: Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Blocks from an undated mid-19th century 
New Jersey album from Stella Rubin Antiques

Simple nine patch stars often served as signature blocks. This month's design gives different effects with different shading.

On the reverse of an 1843 quilt from Swedesboro, New Jersey
in Mary Koval's collection.

It's #1634 in BlockBase, published in
the 1930s by Nancy Page as Mosaic.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Cutting a 12" Block

A - Cut 2 dark & 2 light squares 4-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 8 large triangles.

B - Cut 1 light, 1 dark & 2 medium squares 5-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 16 medium-sized triangles.

C- Cut 2 squares 2-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 small triangles.


D - Cut 1 square 3-3/8".


Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

A Sentiment for June

A scroll with a bouquet from a set of blocks dated 1843 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Civil War & After

Mary and Sue kept up an edgy relationship through the Civil War. Through her husband Mary was  Confederate elite. Sue married Henry King, a Charleston lawyer who was neither ambitious nor sober. By the time the War came and Henry joined the Sumter Guard they were living apart. Henry was killed in the Battle of Secessionville in June, 1862. 

Susan Dupont Petigru King Bowen 
(1824 - 1875) perhaps about 1870

Sue's Southern family was outspoken against Secession. During the War sister Caroline found that Charlestonians thought so little of her opinions she was obliged to obtain a pass to move to New York and then Italy. Sue remained in Charleston and Columbia, suspected of spying, treason and hiding Yankee fugitives and growing more rebellious and combative as the years passed.

The former classmates met at Columbia's 1862 Gunboat Fair. In her diary Mary noted Sue's escort,  an infatuated soldier 12 years her junior, and called her "fast." "People talk of her flirtations and keep out of her way because she is so quarrelsome." Two years later Mary had the nerve to accuse Sue to her face of dressing provocatively in search of a new husband. "And yet I am as afraid of her as death."

In January, 1865 Sue was talking of her engagement to Confederate General Pierre Toutant Beauregard. Mary was indignant. "She showed his letters and his photograph. Incredulous we were and openly pronounced the photograph proof worth nothing. Anybody can get that for a small pile of Confederate money. It is in every shop window."

Paper photos like this carte-de-visite of  
P.T. Beauregard were collectibles, apparently advertised in 
"every shop window" in Columbia right up to the end of the War.

Sue was perhaps delusional as well as bad-tempered. Well, I could go on as it's so much fun to read Mary Chesnut's diary. She is a 21st-century woman in a 19th century-milieu. 

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Becky Brown

Read previews of recent editions of both Mary's and Sue's novels.

Sue enjoyed financial success with several of her books in the 1850s. See Busy Moments of an Idle Woman (1853) and Lily: A Novel (1855). Gerald Gray's Wife and Lily: A Novel have recently been republished. Here's a preview:

Mary Chesnut's novel Two Years or the Way We Lived Then was not published till recently.

The introductions are the best part. 


Judy said...

I’m going to like this block! Hope I see some new Barbara Brackman fabrics this year!

MissPat said...

I'm intrigued with how the color (or maybe it's value) placement makes the star points recede, so the squareness of the block predominates.
Both Mary and Sue sound like unique individuals with interesting lives.

Janie said...

Pat Styring's block is beautiful, the colors.
I like that block, I might give it a go.
Interesting stories, I think we're all 'notorious' in our own way.

Kerry said...

I love the stories. I may have to find the books from here. I do find that part of American history very interesting and an insight to the past.

I agree, colour placement does really affect the shape of the star - or not!

Unknown said...

Hello! Are you all right? I am a newcomer to the seams, the patchwork and I love to research and know more about this beautiful art. I'm from Brazil and I found your blog very cool. Thank you for spreading the world culture out. Big hug! Anna.

Unknown said...

I apologize if this is not the appropriate forum. but thought I could possibly contact Barbara here. I have a friend who has a quilt top that was made by her great-grandmother. She has no other info about when it was made, but has some great pictures. I can't find it in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns or in Blockbase. Could someone point me to the best way to contact her--or anyone who might be able to identify it. Would be glad to post pictures here if people are interested. Again, sorry if this is the wrong place to ask for help.

Karen Smith-Ahrens

Barbara Brackman said...

Karen. The email for the blogs: