Blast From the Past: Cross Stitch

Sampler stitched in New York in 1810 by Joanna DePeyster Cooper (1796-1832). New-York Historical Society

Have you ever used a needle and thread? Do you like to sew? There was a time in American history when girls were REQUIRED to sew! Young girls took classes in school and outside of school to learn cross stitch, which is a form of embroidery that looks like tiny “X’s” and can be found all over the world.

Cross stitch samplers became a requirement for girls in schools by the seventeenth century. The first sampler by young  girls was called a “marking” sampler, designed with letters and numbers. Girls learned their alphabet while practicing the job of labeling clothing and linens. Textiles were very expensive and took time to make, so putting a household’s initials on them was a valuable skill. Joanna De Peyster Cooper, 14 years old, made this sampler in 1810.

In addition to teaching girls their alphabet and numbers, schools also had the girls sew verses, poems and messages of pious behavior. Rosena Disery, aged 16 years, stitched “Truth” at the New York African Free School in 1820. You can see this in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum. Or come try some cross stitching of your own!

Sampler made in 1820 at the New York African Free School by Rosena DIsery (1805-1877). New-York Historical Society

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