2 5/8 x 13 3/8 x 1 in. (32.07 x 33.97 x 2.54 cm)
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle. Artwork in the public domain.
Scholarship on needlework and samplers often describes the practice as a craft for white middle- and upper-class schoolgirls and ladies. However, the craft was also taught to Black schoolgirls. Needlework and sewing instruction were part of the standard curriculum for Black schoolgirls during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most often, their needlework teachers belonged to the Quaker community or were part of the abolitionist movement. The sampler here demonstrates the delicate skill cultivated in the classroom. Eight-year-old Mary D’Silver’s was educated at the Bray Associates Negro School in Philadelphia, a Quaker-run institution and one of three Philadelphia schools for African American students in 1793. Her sampler features a verse from The Mouse’s Petition by English female poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld, as well as D’Silver’s signature. Her choice of poem was likely a result of catering to her audience, as this sampler was found in England, possibly made for sale to raise funds for the school.