Early school samplers from Van Diemen’s Land, Nicola Kissane

Vol 44 no 3, Aug 2022
Article from Vol 44 no 3, Aug 2022

Early school samplers from Van Diemen’s Land, Nicola Kissane


As part of their education in useful arts, schoolgirls sewed their own individual samplers, which are also important indicators of progress in educational methods and reach. The format is fairly standard, with the letters of the alphabet in either or both lower and upper case and basic numbers, plus the girl’s name, date and possibly institution or location. The girls had some scope for originality in colours, subjects and decorative motifs, so no two are the same. Religious motifs reflect not just a school environment but a different era. Because they were done by children, the work is usually quite primitive. This may be a naïve folk art, but early, documentary examples fetch high prices from avid collectors.

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The Australiana Society acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples – the First Australians – as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.