Women's Work: Embroidery in Colonial Boston

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About This Item

Pamela A. Parmal

Charming us with their whimsy and conjuring a warm domesticity, embroideries from the colonial era also astonish us with the high prices they bring at art auctions. A single work could take years to make, its materials could come from the other side of the world and its imagery could reflect its maker’s deepest beliefs and her family’s highest aspirations. Colonial women kept these accomplished works with them throughout their lives, proudly displayed them in their homes, and passed them down as family heirlooms. Embroidery in Colonial Boston tells the stories of six women and how needlework shaped their lives in the colonies’ most important port city. From decidedly domestic origins, their embroideries soon became an economic force that promoted the silk trade and allowed entrepreneurial women and men to profit from selling supplies, drawing patterns and teaching young girls interested in this mode of expression. At once a historical overview, group biography and richly illustrated art book, this publication gives long deserved attention to a unique facet of American visual culture and women’s history.

Featured image, a 1718 sampler by Elizabeth Russell (American, born in Boston, about 1710), is reproduced from Women's Work: Embroidery in Colonial Boston. "This is the earliest known Boston sampler from the eighteenth century. The squirrels at the bottom were a common motif in domestic embroideries such as bed hangings and chair seats."

8" x 9.5".
196 pages / 80 color.