This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Stitching Individuality Through Conformity: Reading Samplers from the Sarah Stivours Embroidery School




Bowden, Antonia

Type of Degree





From the years 1778 to 1794 Sarah Stivours taught Salem, Massachusetts girls the art of sampler-making. Sent to the school to hone their embroidery skills, these affluent young women created needleworks that are wholly unique compared to other designs being used at the time. Using an Adam and Eve scene that is synonymous with the school, and forcing gaze to the center of their works with the famous Stivour Stitch, girls like Ruthey Putnam and Polly Phippen let their views of changes brought on by the American Revolution show through their stitches. In order to begin see through these girls’ eyes, scholars must read their embroideries as texts the same way we do a journal or poem. Samplers from the Stivours school have been compared with other samplers made in Salem during the Revolutionary period and the diary of Anna Green Winslow.