Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Hands All Around #8: Variable Star for Sarah Sanborn


Block #8 Variable Star by Janet Perkins

This basic star has many shading variations. Carrie Hall called it a Variable star, a pattern to recall Sarah Sanborn.

Sarah Elizabeth Sanborn (1823-1903)
Sarah may appear rather retiring in this photo
but her temperament was variable as we shall see.

Sarah moved to Concord, Massachusetts in 1855 with several family members from New Hampshire. Her younger brother Franklin Sanborn had been recruited by Ralph Waldo Emerson to open a school for a few of the town's intellectually elite families. At the time of his interview he dined with one of those families, the Alcotts. "The dinner was without meat but nice and inviting."

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn  (1831-1917)
Portraits are from his various autobiographies.
He published quite a few Concord memories.

Franklin recalled that he accepted Emerson's proposal because of a "domestic reason." 

"My sister Sarah, eight years older than I, had been a successful teacher in several towns, but had fallen into a condition of ill health and low spirits which distressed me....Sarah should accompany me to Concord...should keep my house and assist me in the school, if her spirits would permit."

Sister Helen Maria Sanborn (1830-1920)
about the time she moved to Concord.
Franklin believed all the Sanborns were natural teachers.

Franklin also took with him two other unmarried relatives, sister Helen and cousin Louisa Leavitt, to help him in the school, which became a center of Concord life in the five years before the Civil War.

Variable Star by Pat Stryring

Franklin also recruited the Alcotts; May at one point was the drawing teacher and Louisa and Anna, the actresses, were in charge of the dramatic productions the students put on at the Unitarian Church under the auspices of the Concord Dramatic Union, a Sanborn enterprise. Profits went to the poor.

Ellen Tucker Emerson recalled the Alcott daughters "have a great love and talent for Theatricals."

Ellen Tucker Emerson (1839-1909)
Elaborate bonnets were a fashion necessity, even
in intellectual homes.

Sanborn's School attracted boarders, such as the younger sons of Henry James of New York. Locals included children of the Emersons, the Pratts and for a while Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne's children.

Julian and Una Hawthorne a few years before they
enrolled in the Sanborn School.

Una's mother changed her mind and withdrew her adolescent daughter. The school was just too radical and too frivolous. Dramatic productions, dances and Sanborn's aggressive antislavery stance were problems but as Sophia wrote her sister Elizabeth Peabody, also a skilled teacher, it was the idea of co-educational classes that was just too much.

"We entirely disapprove of this commingling of youths and maidens at the electric age in school. I find no end of ill effect from it."

Many parents chose the school because of Sanborn's abolitionist zeal. People in Concord were well aware of Franklin's acquaintance with John Brown who'd spent time in town raising money for his shadowy army that ultimately failed in an attack on the Harper's Ferry armory in October, 1859. Few realized that Sanborn had been sending Brown some of the school's profits and his own family money.

Sarah and her brother boarded at 49 Sudbury Road

Five months after Brown was hung for his insurrection, four or five federal marshals came in the night to arrest Sanborn for his part in the Brown plot and his defiance of a U.S. Senate subpoena. Concord came to the rescue, the whole neighborhood awakened by Sarah's screaming in the yard. The church bells began sounding an alarm and over a hundred people gathered.

Variable Star by Addison

Anna Whiting, nearing 50, ran over to help Sarah do what they could to confound the law, scaring their horses and blocking their way. Sarah is reported to have pulled one marshal's beard so he'd let go of her brother.

A barefoot woman caning the horses: Anna or Sarah
portrayed in Harper's Weekly April, 1860.

Ellen Emerson's account: 

"Miss Anne Whiting got into the carriage and held the door and put herself in the way, and fought with a cane, and so prevented them from getting Mr. Sanborn in, and gave the people time to collect. The men hurt her and scratched her and tore her dress trying to get her out, but she stayed in and hindered them a long time."
Judge Rockwell Hoar (son Sam was a Sanborn pupil) issued a writ of habeus corpus and the marshals facing the local sheriff backed by a mob left the scene without their prisoner. Sanborn eventually spent a night in jail but was released on a technicality and decamped to Canada for a judicious long vacation.

He always credited Sarah with "my fortunate rescue from the hands of kidnappers" and wrote their mother a few days later:
"You have seen by the entirely we have defeated the outrageous purpose of the ruffians..... I shall also sue them for damages and hope to build my schoolhouse of of their money. I am well...Sarah also is pretty well though tired....she has become quite a lioness."
Antislavery women in Boston sent Sarah flowers. Admirers got together to present the lioness with an "elegant revolver," a gift that William Thayer of  Boston (using the pseudonym William Handy) discussed in a letter to Thomas W. Higginson, now in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society:
"A subscription paper has been opened to buy a beautifully mounted pistol – cost say $75 – to present to Miss Sanborn for her bravery in defending her brother. [James] Redpath suggests that there be Engraved upon the barrel 'The straight and narrow path to heaven', L. B. [?] has the matter in charge & will probably accept the proposal. The amount has nearly all been raised."

Variable Star by Becky Brown 

The Block
BlockBase+ has four shading variations of 2141 with names from states like Ohio and Texas.

Joining Star from the Nancy Page newspaper column in 1934 is another good name to remember the people of Concord. If there was going to be an antislavery riot at the Sanborns everyone joined in.

You need 4 A squares
4 B triangles.
And 12 C triangles.

8” Block (2” Grid)
A—Cut 4 squares 2-1/2”
B—Cut 1 square 5-1/4”. Cut into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts.

C—Cut 2 squares 2-7/8”. Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut.

12” Block (3” Grid)

16” Block (4” Grid)

For D Cut 1 square.
8” ‐ 3‐3/8”
12” ‐ 4‐3/4”
16” ‐ 6‐1/8” 


Post Script

Sarah on the left, Helen next, their mother in a cap, an unnamed niece and cousin
Louisa Leavitt Sanborn bending over her children so all you see is the top of her bonnet.
Hampton Falls, 1868

Sarah and her sister Helen returned to the family home in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, where they were known for their charitable works. Neither married and they lived together until Sarah died in 1903. Their cousin and fellow teacher Louisa Augusta Leavitt married Franklin Sanborn in August, 1862 and they lived the rest of their lives in Concord in an elegant house by the river.

Sanborn closed his school in 1863 and became editor of the Boston Commonwealth during the war. It was he who published Louisa's Civil War articles "Hospital Sketches," that made her first reputation.

Review of Hospital Sketches from the elder
Henry James who sent two sons to
the Sanborn School.

Sarah lived to be 80 but no one ever forgot
her fight with the marshals in Concord in 1860.

Quilt of Many Stars Set

The Nancy Page column called the block "Joining Star" because Florence LaGanke Harris who wrote the column wanted readers to use small versions as the corner stones in her 1934 sampler "The Quilt of Many Stars." She included only 7 star sampler blocks (it WAS the era of a lot of fancy quilting for all the blank spaces.) 

Her triple strip sashing for 12 blocks is a traditional set for our Hands All Around sampler.

I showed a few samplers with sashing and cornerstones here:

The sash was a favorite in the South but here's one
from the Michigan project dated 1893.

Suggestions for triple strip sash:

Giving the same formula for 8", 12" and 16" blocks makes for some strange measurements but here it is. Make the sashing 1/4 the finished size of the block and use a nine patch in the corner stones. 
(32 strip units, 20 Nine Patches)

8" Blocks: 32" x 42" = 2" strips and nine patches. Cut strips 8-1/2" x by a smidgen. EQ doesn't even recognize a measurement this small. Forget the formula and do what you can.  Cut squares for nine patches???

12" Blocks: 48" x 63"= 3" strips and nine patches. Cut strips 12-1/2" x  1-1/2", squares 1-1/2"

16" Blocks: 64" x 84 = 4" strips and nine patches. Cut strips 16-1/2" x 1-7/8", squares 1-7/8"

As you can see you are pretty making this up as you go along---sort of like the riot at the Sanborns.

Further Reading

Edward J. Renehan, Jr's The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired with John Brown includes information about Sarah and Franklin Sanborn (one of the Secret Six.) Renehan quotes from a manuscript in Harvard's Houghton Library recounting Sarah's experiences on the night  marshals tried to arrest her brother.

Franklin Sanborn's Recollections of Seventy Years in two volumes:

The Concord Library has extensive web pages on the local history:


Rina Spina said...

Thank you Barbara for this wonderful BOM, I really appreciate your work about the quilt but much more to let us know the history behind the block!
Rina, from Sicily

QuiltGranma said...

And thank you alwways for the Rest of the story.

susan said...

Will instructions be posted for the setting triangles for the western star setting?