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Our Adorable Past

Lady-Made Embroidery of the Solar System… From 1811

The Museum of Childhood recently published a picture of this hundreds of year old unfinished embroidery sampler that’s very unusual. Embroidery at the time was seen as a good pastime for a young lady, not just because it taught skills like sewing and mending but because it required “patience and concentration, and it kept women at home, focussed on a virtuous domesticity.” Samplers usually depicted domestic, lady-appropriate scenes, so not as to upset the delicate sensibilities of any passersby. This sampler, as you might have noticed, is instead a very scientifically minded model of the Solar System, roughly as it was known at the time, and thinks that this may have been the work of a science minded young woman itching for a way to interact with a field denied to her. For example, they note that the sampler is decades out of date with the planets as they were known in 1811. “That might explain why the sampler wasn’t finished. Who, in 1811, would want to spend weeks or months working on a picture of the Solar System that didn’t include the newest, most exciting planets?”

Certainly not a nerd. We’re kind of sticklers for accuracy, you know. You can read the whole post, which goes on to talk about the science of the time, women of the time, and women in science of the time.


Previously in Science and Crafts

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  • Anonymous

    Very cool sampler. Incidentally, Georgium Sidus translates to George’s Star, named for George III. It would later become known as the planet Uranus.

  • Jonathan Clark

    The five known bodies considered planets at the time were Uranus (discovered in 1781), Ceres (1801), Pallas (1802), Juno (1804), and Vesta (1807). All but Uranus were later demoted when it became evident in the 1840s that there were many more asteroids.

  • Anonymous

    Which planet is missing? Neptune wasn’t discovered until ’46.

    Is the comet Halley’s? The one shown may be in the right position.

    Also, you should know, as I do from reading too many Regency romances, that a proper young lady’s education included knowledge of “the globes”. That is, she was expected to know something about the globe of the earth and the globe of the stars. She was also expected to paint watercolors, play some instrument and speak bad Italian.