Saturday, January 30, 2021

Samplers from Africa


Here's an arresting image on a sampler.
"Pity the Negro Slave
Emancipated In 1832
Hannah Shields"

I do not know the source. Found it on the internet. But I have learned more about it.

York Castle Museum, England
Here's another. Same pattern, also 1832. The only difference is the name:
Sarah Sedgewick.

And a third from 1832 with no name---from a New
Jersey auction several months ago.

Next Thursday evening February 4th I am going to give a virtual lecture
Threads of Dissent: Antislavery Needlework at Gunston Hall in Virginia.
7:00 Eastern

Here's a link.

I had several of these embroidered samplers in my picture files but knew little about them so I thought I should throw a study on it (as my friend Jean likes to say). Virginia Vis sent me a link to an article by Silke Strickrodt, which has been quite helpful in figuring out what we are seeing.

These are embroidered samplers, probably school girls' work.
The colored threads are wool or silk, cross-stitched onto a coarse
background, perhaps linen or wool, leaving much of the background showing

The image is of a black person in chains...

Several antislavery societies used this effective visual as their logo beginning in 1787.

Detail of a quilt by Deborah Simmons Coates,
Chester County Pennsylvania
Lancaster Historical Society

And many needleworkers used the image in their textiles to show solidarity with the cause,
to raise funds and to raise awareness of the inhumanity of slavery.

International Quilt Museum
Detail of a quilt made for Sarah Wistar, 1842-1843

D.A.R. Museum
Pinholder or pin wheel
Pins are stuck around the circle's perimeter.
Small needlework items were sold at antislavery fairs to raise
money for the cause.

But these "Emancipated" samplers have a different story

Silke Strickrodt in her article "African Girls' Samplers" tells us that missionary teachers taught girls to stitch these in their needlework classes in Sierra Leone in the early 19th century. The girls were "Recaptured," children who had been rescued from slave ships sailing out from Africa after the international ban on the Transatlantic slave trade in 1807. 

Recaptured children and adults
Michael Graham Stewart Collection
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England
The Graham Stewart Collection is a large collection of images of slavery.

Outlawing the trade did not end it. Africans continued to capture their neighbors; traders at African ports continued to sell them to shippers; shippers took them to the Americas. 

University of Virginia Libraries

But an occasional ship was intercepted by patrols and the human cargo released---recaptured into freedom and settled in Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Museum of London
Children were Christianized in missionary children's homes.
One could view the settlements as refugee camps.

To support the missionary work managers appealed to donors world wide. One fundraising effort involved these samplers. A woman, say Miss Hannah Shields in Boston, might send a donation and for her gift the teachers would name a girl after her. (Suggested donation: 5 pounds a year for six years.)

The child who once had an African name would become another Hannah Shields and stitch a sampler for her benefactor with their common name. The sampler went to the United States --- or Germany or England. This system of fostering missionary school children and renaming them also went on in India, Ceylon and in schools for Native American children in the United States with a few linked surviving samplers. 

Museum of London
School in Sierra Leone

When Silke Strickrodt wrote her article on the samplers ten years ago she had found 13 African samplers but none looked like those with the British society logo of the kneeling man.

The Church Mission Society in Africa has several in their collection.

Amy Finkel at M. Finkel and Daughter, who specializes in antique samplers, has posted two on the internet.
Charlotte Turner, aged 10 years, 1831
Silk on wool

Charlotte's sampler is now in the Seattle Art Museum

M. Finkel & Daughter
Ann During's 1843 sampler

Gloucester, a town in Sierra Leone, was the location of one of the missionary schools,.
Srickrodt tells us these textile documents present "serious problems in interpretation."

And identification.

One wonders about several other samplers with obvious antislavery messages.

British or African?

Hannah Bloor 1840
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Silke Strickrodt, "African Girls' Samplers from Mission Schools in Sierra Leone (1820-1840s)," History in Africa. Vol. 37 (2010), pp. 189-245.

See also a Native American missionary school sampler sold at a Sotheby's Auction with much information in the catalog notes here:

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cassandra's Circle #13: Isabella D. Martin

Cassandra's Circle #13: Dixie Rose for Isabella D. Martin
By Pat Styring

Isabella Donaldson Martin (1839-1913), about 1865
CDV portrait printed in the 1905 edition of A Diary From Dixie,
which Isabel co-edited.

Our last block recalls Isabella, a member of Mary's Columbia circle. She was daughter to a literary Methodist family; father William Martin was pastor at Columbia's Washington Street Methodist Church.

Painting from memory of the Washington Street Methodist Church,
which burned in the city's conflagration at the end of the war.

Novelist William Gilmore Simms remembered Isabella's mother Margaret Maxwell's "bright eyes and beautiful auburn hair." Born in Scotland, she came to Columbia as a child where she married William Martin in 1837. Life as the wife of a Methodist minister entailed traveling the circuit with him, serving for a time in the Chesnut's hometown of Camden.

Lyttleton Street Methodist Church, Camden
The Chesnuts and the Martins probably first met here.

Margaret helped support her family when they settled in Columbia by running a female seminary for 17 years in the house at the southeast corner of Blanding and Henderson Streets. For recreation she wrote and published pious poetry, for which she achieved some fame. Titles included Heroines of Early Methodism and Christianity in Earnest. One wonders what she thought of  Cassandra's Circle that included the Preston girls and that wild Maggie Howell.

Dixie Rose by Denniele Bohannon

Hampton-Preston House in Columbia, South Carolina
The Preston girls, Buck and Mamie, lived in this elegant house 
their mother inherited from her Hampton family.

Margaret and William Martin had five children but two died young. When war threatened, their last son, red-headed William Maxwell Martin quit college and joined the Columbia Artillery, stationed at Fort Moultrie in Charleston's Harbor. In January, three months before the shooting war began he wrote his father: "We look for a fight every hour, and I believe we are ready." William had the misfortune to catch typhoid fever in camp and died in February, 1861.

His tombstone symbolizing a life cut short at 24
survived the 1865 Columbia fire.

A poetic view of William's death as perhaps the first
of thousands of war's typhoid victims:
"The first Martyr to Southern independence. His death caused
by exposure in defense of his native State at Fort Moultrie."

Mary and Isabella may have begun a life-long friendship at Columbia's 1862 Gunboat Fair while raising money for battleships with a lady's bazaar. "Our fair is in full blast. We keep a restaurant. Our waitresses are Mary and Sally Preston [Mamie & Buck], Isabella Martin, Grace Elmore."

The women of both generations volunteered at the Wayside Hospital, which Louisa McCord and Margaret Martin established at the Columbia railway depot, comforting wounded soldiers passing through. Isabella and Mamie are listed as members of the Young Ladies' Hospital Association.

Columbia's railroad depot and the Wayside Hospital
 burned in the February, 1865 fire.

Mary records Isabella's company with gossip, laughter, carriage rides and an invitation to a strawberry festival. In the last weeks of the war they visited General John Bell Hood as he recuperated from losing his leg. Isabella told the distracted general one of her merriest stories and "nagged Hood to get married" to Buck. Ten days later the Martin family left Sherman's path for refuge in North Carolina. 

Mary left the same day with slaves Ellen and Laurence, taking "French leave of Columbia, slipped away without a word to anybody."

Southern refugee packed into a cart, 1862
Photo by George Bernard, Library of Congress

In Charlotte that night: "Here I am brokenhearted---an exile." The four Martins arrived in town, recognized her luggage at the miserable hotel and found her. "We embraced and wept." Sherman's troops arrived in Columbia the next day.

After the war Isabella and younger sister Margaret became teachers, opening the well-respected Columbia High School for Young Ladies and Little Girls. She and Mary Chesnut kept up their friendship through correspondence and when Mary felt she was dying from her chronic heart disease in the mid-1880s she asked Isabella to take charge of her diaries, letters and manuscript memoirs.

Page from Mary's reworked memoir describing the news of
Lincoln's election

Mary had rewritten her Civil War diary into a much longer memoir with an eye to publication. Adapting the novelist's tool of using dialog to move plot and establish personality she expanded Isabella as a character reflecting pessimism and cynicism just as Molly had personified Mary's antislavery ideas. It was Isabella who christened Mary "Cassandra," the prophet ignored.
"Isabella has been reading my diaries. How we laugh...My famous insight into character---utter folly, They were lying on the hearth ready to be burned--but she told me to hold on---think of it awhile. Don't be rash."
Jefferson & Varina Davis with daughter Maggie Hayes on the left,
 her children and an unidentified African-American woman
1884-1885, Library of Congress

The 1880s was not a time for a frank look back at the Confederacy. The year before Mary died friend Varina Davis advised her on publication:
"I think your diaries would sell better than any Confederate history of a grave character. Between us no one is so tired of Confederate history as the Confederates---they do not want to tell the truth or hear it.

Dixie Rose by Susannah Pangelinan

 Times changed. Twenty years later there was an enthusiastic audience for Southern women's nostalgia---if not "Confederate history of a grave character." Myrta Lockett Avary had done well in 1903 with a memoir called A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, in which she transcribed the memories of an older neighbor. Her New York editor was looking for another such project when Myrta was introduced to Isabella Martin and the Chesnut diaries.

Myrta Lockett Avary (1857-1946)

A Diary From Dixie, serialized first in the Saturday Evening Post, was a publishing success.

The Block

Dixie Rose by Becky Brown

By the 13th block nobody's following the pattern any more. 
We'll see how you can interpret a Dixie Rose.

North Carolina Project
Detail of Dixie Rose quilt made by Sarah Williams, 
Anson County, North Carolina, before 1860

The North Carolina quilt project found two examples of this pattern in their search for regional quilts, both made prior to the Civil War. The name Dixie Rose had not been published until their 1988 book, but that was the name that apparently had been handed down in one of the families. Note the use of paisley shapes for the leaves in this one.

The Patterns

Applique to an 18-1/2" square or cut it larger and trim later.

One Way to print these JPGS.
  • Create a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11" or a word file.
  • Click on the image above.
  • Right click on it and save it to your file.
  • Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". Note the inch square block for reference.
  • Adjust the printed page size if necessary. Do not use tools like "Fit to page."
  • Make templates.
  • Add seams when cutting fabric.

Terry Thompson did a version for her Southern Memorial Quilt several years ago.

It wasn't until I was making this block that I realized how much Block #13 resembles Block #10, drawn from a worn antique found online. I called it Carolina Rose but it could be another version of the Dixie Rose. 

My Dixie Rose

Like many of the other women discussed in Cassandra's Circle Isabella gave meaning to her life and her war memories by creating the myth of "The Lost Cause," dedicated to sanitizing a suicidal and treasonous war. Isabelle's late-life public face does not reflect the funny edge and cynical view Mary Chesnut described.

Memorial dedication pageantry in Houston, 1908

Isabella was quite active in the women's memorial organizations that raised money to leave what they were certain were permanent monuments to Southern Patriotism. She was a member of the largest, the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

More on the Dixie Rose

This block was in a North Carolina sampler dated 1855, made for Laura Brown McCallum.
See the full quilt at the Quilt Index by clicking here: 
See pages 82 and 140 of the North Carolina Quilts book by Ellen Fickling Eanes, et al.

Judy Davis made one for my Civil War Women book.

Extra Reading:

Grace Elmore, first cousin to Mary's husband and a fellow volunteer at the Gunboat Fair, also kept a Civil War diary.Mary didn't mentioned her other than that one encounter at the fair, however. Grace's Heritage of Woe gives you a view of Isabella's South Carolina peers

And there's always the first edition of Mary Chesnut's Diary from Dixie, co-edited by Isabella:

And we are FINISHED with our thirteen blocks. Thanks to the Model Makers.

Cassandra's Circle by Becky Brown

Cassandra's Circle by Susannah Pangelinan

Cassandra's Circle by Pat Styring