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A confessional cross-stitch sampler by a nineteenth century English nurserymaid

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Being a nurserymaid in England (circa the 1820s) was no sunny stroll through Disneyland. The cross-stitch sampler (shown above) by Elizabeth Parker attests to that reality. Parker’s neatly embroidered writing begins with the heartfelt lines, “As I cannot write I put this down simply and freely as I might speak to a person to whose intimacy and tenderness I can fully intrust myself.’

In the sampler, the teenage Elizabeth details her life. From her birth in 1813 – living with her parents, a laborer and a charity school teacher, and ten brothers and sisters – to leaving home at age 13 to become a nurserymaid to a wealthy family. In the service of this family, she was subjected ‘with cruelty too horrible to mention.’ Forming cross stitches with red thread on a plain linen cloth, Elizabeth described her torment with these harrowing words – ‘..which way can I turn oh whither must I flee to find the Lord wretch wretch that I am …what will become of me ah me what will become of me’.

The cross-stitch sampler by Elizabeth Parker is currently on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. You can read more about it on the museum’s website.

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(makezine)

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