1830~, South Ashburnham

1830~, South Ashburnham

Identifier
T.6-1956
Carried out by
Parker, Elizabeth (http://data.silknow.org/activity/designer)
Collection
Material
Technique
Depiction
Dimension
4.5 cm (depth)
104 cm (height)
85.8 cm (height)
8.5 kg (weight)
74.4 cm (width)
94 cm (width)
Production time
Production place
Type of object

Description

Embroidered sampler Linen sampler embroidered with silk; English; ca. 1830. This sampler by Elizabeth Parker reveals much more than her embroidery skills. It tells the story of the young woman who made it. She draws us in from the start. 'As I cannot write I put this down simply and freely as I might speak to a person...I can fully ...trust...'. She tells us she was born in 1813 and lived with her parents and her ten brothers and sisters until the age of 13. She then left home to enter service as a nurserymaid. She describes what she sees as her own weaknesses and sins. She also describes how her employers treated her 'with cruelty too horrible to mention', and how she was tempted to kill herself. As the text continues her desperation increases, '...which way can I turn... wretch that I am …what will become of me...'. The despair of her words is heightened by the way she has formed them, using tiny red cross stitches on a plain ground. She breaks off in mid-sentence 'what will become of my soul'. This sampler has aroused much interest since the V&A acquired it more than 50 years ago. Until recently we knew nothing about Elizabeth beyond her own words. In 1998 an English historian discovered details of who she was and of her family. An American historian has uncovered new information which reveals that Elizabeth did not die young and alone. She became a schoolteacher at the Ashburnham Charity School, in her home village. Although Elizabeth never married, she raised her sister's daughter. At some point in the 1850s she moved into the Ashburnham Almshouses, where she died aged 76 on 10 April 1889.