Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Herbarium # 10: Strawberry Wreath for Mrs. Robinson


Herbarium # 10: Strawberry Wreath for Mrs. Robinson by Becky Brown

After months of looking for the design source---a pattern or teacher who designed the eight Herbarium quilts---we have to give up. We are looking for someone like Mrs. J.A. Robinson who taught both botany and ornamental needlework at the Sharon Female Academy in the 1840s and '50s. 

But she taught in Mississippi far away from the known information about the eight samplers.

The Teacher, Godey's, 1840s

She was surely one of many similar teachers, wife of the principal and governess to the boarders, teaching the lady-like arts so valued in Southern families with botany an appropriate science.

Strawberry Wreath by Kathy Suprenant

An 1845 ad in the Jackson paper tells us that students will be
"surrounded by a virtuous and pious people." No dissipation or idleness.

All that remains of the Robinsons' Sharon Female Academy, which closed after
the war in the early 1870s, is this small classical outbuilding moved
 to the larger town of Canton.

 Strawberry Wreath by Becky Collis


Mrs. Lincoln Phelps, textbook author, assured her audience the science was beautiful and delicate.

Although incipient scientists could be accused of being "a bit of a blue" as Jemima's mother did in a Godey's story.

A "Blue" was an intellectual, a woman often considered unmarriageable, one reason Southern parents were cautious about the curriculum. But surely, exploring the neighboring meadows for wild strawberry plants was a ladylike thing to do.

Botaniste by George Spratt

Southerners would not be sending their girls north to Oberlin, Ohio, a hot bed of radical antislavery ideas and romance apparently while collecting specimens at an interracial and coeducational college.

Oberlin Students 1855

The Block

"Strawberries Wreath"
Six of the eight samplers show a strawberry wreath with spade-like leaves.
A rather mysterious detail as strawberries, wild and cultivated, have a triple leaf. 
1812 botanical print of strawberries, rounder than ours

If it wasn't labeled on the Shelburne's sampler I'd think it was another fruit.

Quilt dated 1846 by Martha Wickham

Wild strawberry gathered in Carmel, California, 1945

Revised strawberry wreath.
The pattern

I am not going to sew the Strawberry Wreath as I only need 12 blocks for a side-by-side
horizontal set and the series offers 13 blocks. Number 11 & 12 will have
fewer pieces than # 10---You might want to wait and check them out before you start cutting strawberries.

The model makers are using the diagonal set with extra
half-wreaths on the sides

There is a bit of a mystery connected to the Sharon Female Academy. In the Methodist Cemetery a gravestone for Sarah N. Burns has a lengthy inscription for a student who died in 1847 when she was about 15, a "child of affliction."

Who were those "pretended friends?"

"Her career on earth was short. She was the child of affliction. The protracted illness of which she died was caused by mismanagement and the officious interference of pretended friends. But she passed triumphantly away and her last words were 'Come Lord Jesus and take me home / the greatness of the leaf is done / the beauty of the flower is risen / the birds to other climes have flown / and there's an angel more in heaven.' "  What kind of affliction???

 Strawberry Wreath redrawn to fit a pentagram by Robyn Gragg.

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