19th Century Schoolgirl Samplers
worked by students at Saint Frances Academy
The needlework completed by Ann Roberts in 1829 is the earliest work found in the Oblate Sisters of Providence collection. While there is no documented proof that Roberts was a student or teacher at Saint Frances Academy, her needlework was kept by the Oblates for over 175 years.
Below are images of some of the samplers owned by the Oblate Sisters. We believe it is the largest collection of 19th century samplers worked by African American schoolgirls housed in one respository. The fact that the order kept these rare pieces illustrates how important sewing and needle skills were to the Oblate order for the entirety of their history.
A sampler worked by Mary Pets, a student a Saint Frances School for Colored Girls, in 1831 when she was ten years old. Mary was a day scholar at the school form 1839 until 1832 and received a crown for excellent performance at the school award ceremony in August 1831.
A sampler worked by Saint Frances School for Girls student Sarah Solomon in 1849. Sarah was enrolled at the Oblate School for one year as a boarding student. It is a depection of Saint John whose sainthood is symbolized by the halo, his red clothing (martyr), staff in the right hand, and lamb to the left.
The caption at the bottom of the sampler reads "Harriet Cooper's Work at the Sisters School of Providence Baltimore Aug. 9, 1843."
The sampler shows a first-phase skill in embroidery and is referred to as a marking sampler because provides practice in marking household linens such as tablecloths, napkins, bedding and clothing. It was worked by Mary Morgan (affectionately called Katie). Mary was from Saint Mary's County in southern Maryland and attended Saint Frances Academy from 1871 until 1878.
This is an undated sampler worked by Emma Grason while she was a student at Saint Frances Academy. It was probably worked in the early 1880s. This is a marking sampler. Emmas was born in Baltimore in 1870. After attending primary school at Saint Frances she went on to Hampton Institute in Virginia where she graduated in 1887. She married and moved to the Upper Eastern Shore where she began her teaching career. In 1911 she was appointed the first colored supervisor of the colored schools in Kent County. Under her leadership a high school for black students was built. The first class graduated in 1925.