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26 July 2019
- FARA Shops

Stitching Together Europe - Quaker Education for Girls

At school in York in 1809. Martha Satterthwaite stitched this needlework sampler of Europe. Two hundred and ten years later it was donated to FARA's Fulham Road shop and will be auctioned on Monday 12th August at Hansons Auctioneers, London Fine Art & Antiques Auction. The oval panel is worked in coloured silks on a fine calico printed map background. Place names and lines of longitude and latitude are all hand sewn. It must of taken Martha many hours carefully stitching. It is clear to see the pride in her work with a delicately worked wreath border around her name. The sampler is in remarkably good condition for its age and we hope it fares well in auction with the ever increasing numbers of folk art collectors.

So who was Martha Satterthwaite and why did she sew a map of Europe? What did Hannah understand of the countries she was stitching together?


The surname Satterthwaite is unusual. It is comes from a hamlet in the Lake District, Lancashire in the Grizedale valley. There is sparse information of those bearing this name from the Georgian period. Benjamin Satterthwaite (1718- 1792) was born in Leeds the son of a Quaker grocer called Thomas (of Hawkshead, four miles from the Satterthwaite hamlet). It is likely that Martha could have been his great granddaughter. It is certain that the Satterthwaite name has strong connections to the Quaker 'friends' with it also appearing in records of Quaker communities in Pennsylvania, America in 1838. Quakers often made marriage arrangements at large monthly meetings and with York being a mere 30 miles from Leeds it is very plausible that the Satterthwaite's had spread to other known Quaker strong holds like York.

At the time Martha attended the York School in 1809 education was not guaranteed for all children and certainly not for girls. (In 1833, the Factory Act made two hours of education a day compulsory for working children and money was granted to charities to help school for the first time.)


The fact that Martha may have been a Quaker would have been an advantage for her education. Most girls, if they got any education, would have gone to a Dame schools, village schools or through instruction at Sunday Schools. The curriculum for girls mainly comprised of reading (from the Bible), needlework and singing. Depending on a school's founders attitude girls might also be taught writing, spelling, arithmetic and geography.


Quakers were progressive in the emphasis of teaching girls not just to be 'decorative, modest, marriageable beings' but their instruction included moral and religious teaching as well as social discipline in order that they may themselves become church leaders. The typical Georgian girl was not encouraged to have academic aspirations in case it challenged their attachment to home and hearth. Despite the first sparks of the Bluestocking movement (Mary Wollstoncraft's 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792) it was strongly believed by the many that academic study was against women's nature and that too much knowledge could effect a woman's fertility!

The history of samplers is covered in this article from the V & A -which states 


"The establishment of sampler-making as a part of girl's education gace scope for the demonstration of more than just her needlework skills and the expression of dutiful piety."


"Geography was also considered a suitable vehicle for the combined demonstration of academic and needlework skills. Samplers depicting maps, at first were drawn onto the canvas by pupils or her teacher, became so popular that printed satin versions could be purchased ready to embroider."

Martha’s knowledge of Europe other than the sampler would have been one of war and unrest particularly with England's closest neighbour, France. Early in 1809 the Treaty of the Dardanelles between the United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire was concluded protecting the establish trade routes against the French threat. There was fighting over much of central Europe from April to July with high casualty rates on both sides as the United Kingdom and the Austrian Empire fought against Napoleon's French Empire and Bavaria. The War of the Fifth Coalition was only part of the three major wars that were ongoing in 1809: Napoleonic War (1803 - 1815) , Anglo- Russian War (1807 - 1812) and the Peninsular War (1808 - 1814). A far cry from the European Union of today.


Martha Satterthwaite's handy work can be bid on - LOT 543 in Hanson's online catalogue or you can view into the live auction via The Saleroom live webcast auction on Monday if you can't make it to the Normansfield Theatre, 2A Langdon Park, Teddington, TW11 9PS.

Blog written by - Jemma Banks - FARA Fine Art Team

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