This sampler was worked by Mary Green, an 11 year old girl at the end of the eighteenth century. Pieces such as these served several purposes.
Working a sampler enabled girls to practice their embroidery skills, while also instilling strong moral and religious values via the work they produced. Long hours spent with a needle and thread also helped to develop patience in the needlewoman.
The oldest surviving sampler dates from 1598, but references to samplers occur much earlier than this. Originally worked to act as a reference guide to stitches and patterns before the widespread introduction of printing, these works would have been passed down through the family and added to over time. The word ‘sampler’ or ‘exampler’ comes from the French word ‘essamplaire’ meaning any kind of work to be copied or imitated.
The earliest samplers are devoted only to stitches and patterns. Only later did the incorporation of the alphabet, numbers, verse, motifs and family events become popular. Such pieces then acquired decorative value as well as practical worth.
It is evident from this sampler that for girls of this period, spelling was not a skill as highly prized as others demonstrated in this piece.