Quaker Samplers

Quaker Samplers

The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, was a dissenting protestant group originating in England in the early part of the 17th century. Quaker beliefs about the spiritual equality of men and women led to advanced ideas about the importance of education for girls, as well as education for children from impoverished and enslaved families. The Quakers founded some of the first co-educational schools in England and America, with emphasis on providing a sound academic and religious education to all students.

Early Quaker samplers were not distinguishable from those of the region in which they were created. By the beginning of the 19th century, however, a transformation had occurred. Samplers produced in Quaker schools on both continents adopted similar alphabets, motifs, and formats. Prominent was use of the Roman style alphabet, in both capital and small letters. Motifs associated with Quaker instruction include small wreaths, paired doves, swans, natural looking sprays of flowers, and eight pointed stars. Unique to Quaker samplers was the inclusion of bold and intricate medallions and half medallions, often lined up along the edge as a border. In short, widespread adoption of the same alphabets and motifs led to 19th century samplers that are easily recognizable as having been created under the instruction of a Quaker teacher or one trained in a Quaker school.

Stitched Quaker sampler in museum collection, Oregon, USA

Mary B. Randolph, 1829

Materials: Silk on linen
Dimensions: 16.5" H x 17.5" W
Stitches: Cross, eyelet, rice, satin, herringbone
Benton County Historical Society Collection

Mary Brightwell Fitz Randolph, born in 1813 in Redstone, Pennsylvania, stitched this under the direction a Quaker teacher. She was 16 when she completed the sampler. Quakers say a child is in the first year of life at birth so someone in their 17th year is only 16. Mary married Strickler Forry in 1831 and died in 1834 in Redstone.

A chartpak for this sampler is available for sale from Eileen Cross.

Susanna S. Furman, 1831

Materials: Silk on linen
Dimensions: 16" H x 17.75" W
Stitches: Cross, queen
Collection of Lynne Anderson

Many of the motifs on Susanna Furman's sampler are typical of samplers stitched under the instruction of Quaker teachers. These include the central wreath with a pair of doves and the various sprays of flowers. The style and border of Susanna's sampler suggest an affinity with the Quaker samplers and schools of the Delaware River Valley and Burlington County, New Jersey. Although the 1830 census lists multiple Furman families living in Burlington County, no birth, death, or marriage records for a Susanna Furman from this area have been found.

19th century Pennsylvania Quaker cross stitch sampler

Rosanna Price, 1834

Materials: Silk on linen
Dimensions: 12.5" H x 16.5" W
Stitches: Cross, tent
Collection of Lynne Anderson

Rosanna Ferris Price was born in 1820 to Ferris and Martha (Smith) Price of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where her father was a very successful (and wealthy) master carpenter. She was named for her paternal grandmother, Rosanna Ferris, who married Joseph Price in 1783. Rosanna attended Nine Partners School, a private Quaker school in Dutchess County, New York. She stitched her sampler at the age of 14, her last year at the school.