Schooled to be Ladies (1776-Present)

Girls get to go to school. That was revolutionary back in the 1700s, when the nation was founded. Until then only a few men were educated, if they were merchants, lawyers, or leaders. Democracy changed that. As future mothers, many believed that girls needed an education to raise the next generation of citizens.

But it's complicated. School was only available to those who could afford it.

Good schooling still comes at a price.

At school, most girls sewed samplers to learn to read, write, and reason. Needlework also provided a valuable skill that gave women and girls a way to make a living. A seamstress could operate an independent business from her home. Women valued this work because it was safer than working in another person's home or business. Elizabeth Throckmorton was 10 when she made this sampler.

Elizabeth Throckmorton's sampler, 1804

Gift of Mrs. Katherine Stahmer

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Girls sewed images of maps, botanical specimens, political statements—you name it, they sewed it.

Before public education became widespread, families paid to educate their daughters. By 1830 many girls' academies (or private schools) had opened, giving wealthier girls access to learning science, literature, math, art, and history.