Emeline Gilkey crafted this small (7.5” x 8”) sampler in 1823 at the age of ten. Samplers were educational tools, much like horn books or slates, used to develop a young girl’s stitchery skills. Simple alphabet samplers were known as marking samplers. They served a dual purpose of teaching a child basic embroidery techniques and the alphabet and numbers. A girl who was lucky enough to continue her education often made more elaborate embroidery at a seminary or other ladies’ school.

Emeline is sitting in the wagon with her grandchildren in this lovely 1880 view of the David Pratt Sargent farm on New Boston Road. Click here to zoom into the photo.

None of the samplers in the NHS collection record being sewn at a female seminary, but that did not mean that Norwich was without opportunities for female education. There were female seminaries in Norwich from at least 1829 – 1861. This 1835 notice for a Ladies’ Seminary reveals that girls had the opportunity to not only have classes “requisite to a useful and polite education,” but also could attend lectures delivered at Norwich University. Wow!

After Norwich University moved to Northfield, the Norwich English and Classical Boarding School opened in the remaining North Barracks. In this advertisement we can see that female day scholars will be admitted with a “separate young ladies’ department.”