Articles and Events











Amy Finkel

A great rarity, this sampler was made by an 11-year-old free Black girl, Jane Freedom, living in Norfolk, Litchfield County, Connecticut, about 35 miles northwest of Hartford.  The needlework presents relatively simple alphabets and a row of strawberries along the bottom. These were accomplished in the queen’s-stitch, a sophisticated technique that was generally taught only to advanced samplermakers. Remarkably, Jane’s needle is still in her sampler, nearby an incomplete line of stitching at the bottom of the sampler.  To learn more about Jane Freedom's sampler and her life, please read our article published on our site here


Jane Freedom

JF sampler





Video: Embroidered Lives, South County Samplers and Their Stories

curated by Lynne Anderson at the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum

Embroidered Lives Promo



















Upcoming Exhibitions:


With Their Busy Needles

On display April 26 through December 1, 2024

Samplers are more than thread stitched through cloth. As objects of art, samplers tell stories of creativity, instruction, and skilled work. As historical records, they document the lives and experiences of thousands of young women, histories that might otherwise remain unknown.

With Their Busy Needles showcases works from the sampler collection of Alexandra Peters, displayed alongside Litchfield examples from the Historical Society’s textile collection. Peters, a sampler historian and collector, serves as guest curator of the exhibit.


With their busy needles





Know My Name: How Schoolgirls Samplers Created a Remarkable History

Sunday May 5, at 3 pm (EST)

at the Litchfield History Museum (7 South Street)

To accompany the opening of their newest exhibit, With Their Busy Needles: Samplers and the Girls Who Made Them, The Litchfield Historical Society will host guest curator, Alexandra Peters, for this lecture.

The power of the needle wielded by girls in the creation of samplers has often been overlooked in early American history. Revolutions were taking place, abolitionists were fighting slavery, and literate schoolgirls were sewing thousands of samplers that were meant to show off their accomplishments. The samplers they stitched, often strikingly beautiful, give us a surprising way to look into the lives of these girls, their families and the changing world around them.  

Alexandra Peters, a collector and historian of samplers, will talk about a variety of the samplers from her collection now being exhibited at Litchfield Historical Society, how she became a collector, and why schoolgirl needleworks are so important in our understanding of women in American history.

You can register for the talk, live or on Zoom, here:


Litchfield Historical Society logo




Embroidered Lives: South County Samplers and Their Stories

April 28 - July 28, 2024

Curated by Lynne Anderson, PhD & Margaret O'Connor

Until the late 19th century, needlework was an essential part of the American schoolgirl curriculum, as important as learning to read. In addition to plain sewing, most girls were taught fancy needlework stitches and used them to embroider at least one sampler – many made two or three. “Embroidered Lives” showcases 30 samplers with South County connections, exploring the social, religious, and historical contexts within which these girls lived, attended school, and stitched their samplers.

All the samplers on display are signed and most are dated, allowing us to identify the individual schoolgirls responsible for their creation. The girls represent families from all across South County and are of diverse socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. These intricate pieces both unite these disparate experiences of girlhood and serve as material testaments to the girls’ educational and needlework achievements; testaments as beautiful and unique as their young makers.


Schoolgirl simpler by Polly Cole, age 11, 1808, Hopkinton RI Lynne Anderson Collection
Schoolgirl simpler by Polly Cole, age 11, 1808, Hopkinton RI
Lynne Anderson Collection





Currently on Display:

Sewn in America

March 22 to December 3, 2024

Sewn objects surround us. They clothe us from birth, cover our bodies day and night, furnish our living spaces, line our coffins. For over 40,000  years humans have sewn by hand (and for a mere 180, by machine as well). Until recently, every woman and many men knew how to sew for utilitarian and often decorative purposes. Knowing a variety of techniques and stitches, and which to use for a given task, was key knowledge imparted in childhood and employed throughout a lifetime.

This groundbreaking exhibit combines sewn items from all textile sections of the DAR Museum’s collections: clothing, household textiles, quilts, and needlework. It examines the role sewing played both practically in American women’s lives, and in shaping gender roles, whether domestically or in professions from dressmaking and tailoring to factory work. Garments, quilts, and embroideries from the 18th century to today are juxtaposed to show how women of diverse backgrounds have used their needles to express emotions and identity and as a force for benevolence and justice.


Sewn in America Exhibition
















Samplers at the Met

curated by Amelia Peck

Rebekah S. Munro American  ca. 1791Eight 18th century American samplers are on display in a small exhibit in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Curated by Amelia Peck, the samplers were made between 1721 to 1795 and are showcased in an intimate gallery off the Richmond Room. One of the stars is a sampler by Rebekah White, stitched in 1766 in Salem, Massachusetts. Rebekah was born July 18, 1754, the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Miller) White. Her sampler is very similar to the 1766 sampler by Susannah Saunders, also of Salem, that was formerly in the Betty Ring collection. Both samplers showcase the long diagonal filling stitches common to many 18th century samplers made in Salem, a technique that was apparently adopted by multiple area teachers. Clearly Rebekah and Susannah knew each other and attended school together. Another stunning sampler in the exhibit was stitched in 1792 by Martha (Patty) Coggeshall of Bristol, Rhode Island. Patty’s sampler was probably embroidered under the instruction of Anne Bowman Usher (1723–1793), who ran a successful school for girls in Bristol from 1774 to 1793. Samplers from the school have a distinctive fully stitched black background and distinctive motifs such as a man playing a flute and a long-tailed bird in flight. Also included in the exhibit are the following samplers.


For images and more information on all of the samplers listed, check out the 18th century American samplers in the Metropolitan Museum’s online collection (link below). Mary Munro, 1788, Mary Balch School in Providence, Rhode Island Peggy Ingraham, undated but she born in 1778, Bristol, Rhode Island Mary Austin, 1784, of Salem, Massachusetts Mary Waine, 1795, of Boston, Massachusetts Abigail Ridgway, 1795, unknown origin.

See these samplers and many more here




Marvelous Maps

Five schoolgirl embroideries of the
Plan of the City of Washington ca. 1800
by Virginia Whelan, Textile Conservator,
NSCDA Sampler Survey chair, Pennsylvania Society

Marvelous Maps
Article by Virginia Whelan in the NSCDA publication “Dames Discovery” (Spring/Summer 2023, Vol. 33, No. 1, p. 8-9) entitled “Marvelous Maps.” The article discusses five very detailed silk-on-silk map samplers featuring “the plan of the city of Washington.” Believed to have been stitched by girls attending school in Alexandria, Virginia circa 1800, each embroidery is unique but all share enough similarities to attribute them to the same instructor. Virginia discusses the shared features but also highlights the subtle differences (e.g., various spellings for the Potomac River) and provides explanations for why these differences might exist. Information is also provided about each of the five sampler makers and current ownership for all five embroideries. Virginia Whelan is a textile curator and owner of Filament Conservation Studio in Pennsylvania. She is also chair of the NSCDA Sampler Survey.

Read the full article here





How to Research an Antique Sampler

Lecturer: Cindy Steinhoff
Original Lecture Date: Sunday, June 11, 2023
Recording of lecture available for purchase


An antique sampler reveals some of its physical characteristics and often some information about the girl who stitched it, but what else can it tell us? Cynthia Shank Steinhoff will discuss how she learns more about the samplers she collects and researches. The result is a full documentation of a sampler’s appearance and history. Many of the characteristics that she identifies for older samplers can be used to provide a full description of a needlework piece made today.

Cynthia Shank Steinhoff is the director of the library at Anne Arundel Community College, where she has been a member of the faculty since 1983. A graduate of Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania), she also holds a Master of Library Science degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Baltimore.

Cynthia is a stitcher, sampler collector, and needlework researcher. She began stitching as a young girl and still owns the first set of stamped pillowcases that she made. Her collection of samplers includes works by girls in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, among other states, and from Scotland, England, and Ireland. The oldest sampler in her collection was made in England in the 1730s. Her current areas of focus are samplers made in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, and those stitched by Quaker girls. She researches many aspects of her needlework pieces, including stitches and materials used in the samplers, the stitchers’ lives, and connections between her pieces and others in museums and private collections.

Cynthia contributed to and copy-edited Wrought with Careful Hand: Ties of Kinship on Delaware Samplers, by Dr. Lynne Anderson and Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen, the catalog that accompanied an exhibition of 60 Delaware samplers at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, Delaware, in 2014. She is the co-author with Gloria Seaman Allen of Delaware Discoveries: Girlhood Embroidery, 1750-1850, published in 2019, and is also its editor. Cynthia wrote Delaware Schoolgirl Samplers, an essay on the M. Finkel and Daughter web site. She has given presentations about samplers at numerous needlework guilds, Winterthur’s biennial needlework conference, Penn Dry Goods Market, and Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, Delaware.

A member of the Annapolis Historic Sampler Guild and Loudoun Sampler Guild, Cynthia also belongs to three chapters of the Embroiderers Guild of America – Constellation, Washington DC, and CyberStitchers, the EGA’s online chapter. She is first vice president of Anne Arundel Genealogical Society in Maryland.

When not researching samplers, Cynthia can be found stitching (usually a sampler), reading a mystery novel, and hanging out on the family dog.

Link to purchase lecture recording of this past event




“Lo Children are an heritage of God”: a Family Record Sampler of the Child Family

Article via Massachusetts Historical Society, May 2023; Object of the Month


Recording family history

While most people are familiar with published family genealogies and manuscript lists of ancestors in musty family Bibles, genealogy also played a starring role in the decorative arts. One of the most interesting is the family record sampler, which first appeared in the late 18th century and reached its peak of popularity between 1820 and 1830, particularly in New England. Whereas girls of a previous generation might have expressed their family pride by stitching an elaborate coat of arms, as Sally Cobb Paine did in the 1760s, by the turn of the century, girls stitched records that were less formal and more focused on recording their own family unit. As Peter Benes notes, family unity in these records was demonstrated in a common and easily understood visual vocabulary, “by interlocking chains, by adjacent circles, by standing architectural structures, and by planted grids or ‘fields’ of names.”



This needlework sampler stitched by Hannah Richards Child in 1827
memorializes the family of Daniel and Rebecca Richards Child ofWest Roxbury and Newton, Massachusetts. 
Black cotton thread on loosely woven natural linen, 1827, 54.7 cm x 42 cm

The Child family sampler

Hannah Richards Child’s 1827 family record sampler contains elements of Benes’s formula. Strong twin pillars enclose the family’s names within, crowned with an arch and the phrase “Lo Children are an heritage of Gd,” from Psalms 127:3, which continues “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Hannah’s choice of psalm serves as both an affirmation of her strong religious faith and a loving tribute to her father. After her mother Rebecca died in 1826, Hannah—according to her own obituary—"had devoted herself assiduously to her surviving parent, consoling him under many trials, through which he has recently been called to pass, and directing his house with a degree of judgment, prudence, and affection that are seldom equalled.”

Within the pillars, Hannah recorded the names and birthdates for herself and her 11 siblings, although by the time she stitched her family register, three of her siblings and her mother had died. Two names are repeated on the list—Isaac and Hannah. At the time, child mortality was not uncommon and when a child died, the next child of the same sex would sometimes be named for his or her predecessor, often within the same year. This occurred twice in the Child family. The first Hannah was born in 1794 and stitched her own sampler in 1805, four years before her death in January of 1809 at the age of 14. Our sampler maker, born later that year, was christened Hannah, a name that proved unlucky for her as well. Four years after stitching this sampler, Hannah Richards Child met a tragic end and was glowingly eulogized in the 13 April 1831 edition of the Columbian Centinel:

"Died, in Newton, on the 5th inst. Miss Hannah R. child, aged 22, youngest daughter of Mr. Daniel Child. The sudden death of this young woman, together with the distressing circumstances of it, has cast a gloom over the whole neighbourhood. To see one, thus lovely and excellent, at one moment in perfect health, and, at the next, torn from us by death in one of its most heart-rending forms, is truly distressing. In the afternoon of that day, her aged father left his home to be present at an examination of a neighbouring school. On his return, about five o’clock, finding her not in the house, and having waited a short time, in momentary expectation of her return he became alarmed. The neighbours were assembled, and search was made. At 8 o’clock in the evening, her remains were found at the bottom of the well, near the house. It appears that she had gone to the well for water; and that, in reaching over the curb, to lift out the bucket, she was precipitated to the bottom of the well, that was twenty-five feet deep, with fourteen feet of water. Medical aid was at hand, and every effort made to rekindle the spark of life; but it was quenched.

The scene presented by this event was heart-rending to those who witnessed it. For several years since the death of her mother, this affectionate daughter had devoted herself assiduously to her surviving parent, consoling him under many trials, through which he has recently been called to pass, and directing his house with a degree of judgment, prudence, and affection that are seldom equalled. To see this old man, in the increasing alarm for his daughter’s safety, in the apprehension for her fate, that became more dreadful with every moment’s delay, and the yet evident fear to know the worst, and at last in the agonies of despair, when he saw that she was dead, must have touched every heart that was not itself dead to feeling. To her father no blow could be more painful, to her brother and sisters none more severe—by the circle—the large circle—of her friends, none more sensibly felt. The void that this death has left in society will not be easily filled. But all her friends have the consolations that spring from their religious convictions and hopes, and the beauty and excellence of her character. We bow before the mysterious movements of God’s holy providence, and hope and trust that such as may have been influenced by her example to follow in her steps, may hereafter be united with her in the rewards which have been graciously set before our hopes, as motives to virtue, in the gospel in which the deceased trusted till her death, and which she adorned in her life."

For further reading

The samplers worked by both Hannah Child and Hannah Richard Child were given to the Massachusetts Historical Society along with the papers of their brother John Richards Child.

The Society also holds the papers of their brother Daniel Franklin Child.

The MHS also owns a family record sampler by Sally Whitcomb of Randolph, Mass., ca. 1809.

Benes, Peter. “Decorated New England Family Registers, 1770 to 1850,” in The Art of Family: Genealogical Artifacts in New England Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002.

Child, Elias. Genealogy of the Child, Childs and Childe Families Utica, N.Y.: Curtiss & Childs, 1881.

Huber, Stephen and Carol Huber. Samplers: How to Compare and Value London: Octopus Publishing Group, 2002.

Ring, Betty. Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850 New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.



Gracious and Artful Devices for the Adornment of Life


An early step in needlework’s reappraisal as an art form was the Exhibition of Old English Tapestry Pictures, Embroideries and Samplers of 1900, organized by the former editor of the Art Journal, Marcus B. Huish, at the Fine Arts Society in London. As he wrote in the large illustrated catalogue that appeared later that year, popular interest in the exhibition was extraordinarily high, precisely because “almost every visitor possessed some specimen of the craft, but few had any idea that his or her possession was the descendant of such an ancestry, or had any claim to recognition beyond a quite personal interest.” Only when needlework was removed from its domestic context and viewed en masse did the public begin to accept its value. It took a “museological” approach to elevate estimation of this material, and Huish cited no less an authority than John Ruskin in arguing for needlework’s fundamental place in the English museum landscape. The Illustrated London News hoped that the “publicity thus given to the primitive phase of our national art may draw other specimens from their hiding-places.”

Subsequently, in a fulfillment of this wish, the numerous exhibitions that showcased English needlework in the interwar period (1919–39), often staged for charities, brought together large quantities—up to 600 pieces in some cases—of embroidery, impressing the public with the sheer mass and brilliancy of this material. Typically viewed in sometimes sad country-house contexts, domestic needlework of the seventeenth century did not have a stellar artistic reputation. However, the needlework caskets (Fig. 1), baskets (Fig. 4), framed panels (Fig. 5), and trinkets (Fig. 6) collected by Percival Griffiths, Sir William Burrell, William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), Sir William Plender, Sir William Lawrence, Frank Ward, and Sir Frederick Richmond were carefully chosen to be the best of the best in connoisseurial terms, and when these objects were presented in large numbers—often with the endorsement of the omnipresent exhibition patron Queen Mary—their reputation and interest steadily grew.


King Solomon 1694
Needlework picture of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, English, c. 1650.
15 1⁄2 by 19 1⁄2 inches. Collection of Joseph P. Gromacki.


Article continued on The Magazine Antiques



Stitched in Time

Colonial Williamsburg

Opened December 3, 2022
This exhibition will be on view in the Len and Cyndy Alaimo Gallery


Needlework—which includes canvas work, lace, tambour, crewel work, silk embroidery, quilting, and counted stitch—played an important role in the homes and lives of many early Americans. Embellishing textiles with decorative stitches was one method in which the Founding Mothers contributed to their family’s household furnishings and enriched their homes and clothing with pattern, color, and beauty.

Sewing and mending everyday functional textiles such as bed and table linens, as well as clothing, was another means in which women contributed economically to their family.  Stitching needlework projects was also an educational tool for young schoolgirls, and a creative outlet for many housewives.

American needlework reflects great diversity and regional variations. Many factors influenced distinct regional characteristics including the ethnic origins of the makers, trade and migration patterns, influential teachers and artists, current fashions, religious affiliations, geography, and even climate.  “Stitched in Time” explores regional variations in American needlework of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and the forces that molded them.


Elizabeth Terry
Memorial to Terry Family by Elizabeth Terry,
Marietta, Pennsylvania, 1836.
Museum Purchase, 1962.604.1



Map of the Eastern Half of the United States by Ann E. Colson,
Pleasant Valley School, Dutchess County, New York, 1809.
Museum Purchase, The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, 2019-70



Mary Welsh
Sampler by Mary Welsh,
Massachusetts, ca. 1770.
Museum Purchase, 1962-309

Link to event here



New York Historical Society video lecture available on Youtube - entitled “Truth” Revealed – Rosena Disery’s African Free School Sampler"

Presented by Margi Hofer, Museum Director and Vice President of the NYHS, it's a deep dive into Rosena Disery, a student at New York City’s African Free School, and her highly significant 1820 sampler. Hofer includes a great amount of information about the school and also its students along with fascinating information about the lives of Rosena, her husband and family - highly successful caterers in NYC. The New York Historical Society also holds the African Free School’s records and papers.

This sampler, and much information, is in the archives of our website. Put "rosena" in the search box upper right on any page of our site (of course you can use this for any other search). We are proud to have owned, researched, conserved and framed the sampler before NYHS acquired it, ten years ago.

New Light: Notes on a Vermont Schoolgirl Embroidery

Article in The Magazine Antiques (July 3, 2020) by Dr. Gene R. Garthwaite


A Sampler from the Bennington Museum Blog Post

visit Bennington's website for more information on this sampler from 1835.

Sewing and Embroidery Lessons at the College of San Ignacio de Loyola, Vizcaínas

Check out a recorded Zoom presentation (in Spanish, password is: 0p%eR140) about school girl embroidery in Mexico City from the College of San Ignacio De Loyola, Vizcaínas, founded in 1767

Girlhood (It's Complicated)

National Museum of American History (NMAH) in Washington, DC.

The exhibition is one in many ways in which the various Smithsonian museums have chosen to honor the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. 

The exhibition will be at the NMAH for two years, after which it will be a traveling exhibition and be on display at five to seven other museums in the country 2023-2025.…

"A Stitch in Time" - Blog Post
by Stacey Fraser

Lexington Historical Society, Massachusetts 

"Threads of History: Swetland family samplers" - Blog Post
by Aimee Newell

Luzerne County Historical Society, Pennsylvania