One item in the collection at Lexington Historical Society of great interest is a sampler created by Eusebia Windship. It was finished sometime after 1780, and it depicts Eusebia’s siblings as branches of a tree, growing from her parents. The purpose of samplers was to show off the needlework skills of the creator. One look at the tight, little green stitches on every single leaf of the tree will leave no doubt as to the ability of Eusebeia to create beautiful, lady-like art. But this piece has more to tell us.
When I began giving tours at Munroe Tavern in 2012, this piece was a prime feature in the exhibit. It was placed in the “women’s bedroom," as we were interpreting it at the time, and we were using the opportunity to say something about the history of Lexington’s women. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to say. Women in the 18th century would have been literate, as this was a tenet of the then-current prevailing Puritanical values of understanding the Bible for oneself. However, since the written records – town meeting minutes, sermons, tax records, etc. – were the exclusive domain of men, most of women’s stories have not come down to us.
This sampler, as well as others, does give us a window into their world, though. This sampler was meant to be displayed for company, and it records that there were two Daniels in the family tree, as well as two Eusebias. This was because you did not have the luxury, in the eighteenth century, of expecting all of your babies to grow up. It was a hard fact of life. Also apparent is the fact that Eusebia saw no problem in recording that her parents were wed on May 3, 1760 and that her elder brother Levi was born just six months later on November 9.
-James Miele, Museum Store Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.