Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Ladies' Hand Book

I recently came across an absolute gem in the stacks of my college's library. The Ladies' Hand Book of Fancy and Ornamental Work, "compiled from the best authorities" by Miss Florence Hartley. The copywright date is 1859, and a handwritten inscription from the original owner, Lillian, is dated 1880.

I thought the conclusion was quite funny, and it definitely speaks to the context in which the book was published:

"In taking leave of her readers, the compiler of this volume cannot refrain from offering a few remarks on the importance of needle work as a branch of female education. She cannot but regard it as essential to a woman's happiness, not less than her usefulness, in accomplishing this mission of her life. If Providence has placed her in a humble or middle station of life, the ability to use her needle with skill in useful or ornamental work, enables her greatly to promote the well being and comfort of her family, and to gain and preserve that peace of mind which results from the consciousness of being useful. If she is place in a more elevated station, her leisure hours may be passed, not only with profit, but with pleasure, in executing those beautiful fabrics of the needle, which contribute so largley to the adornment of her person and her dwelling. She should by no means neglect the cultivation of her mind, by reading and study. But there are many hours in the day when the mind recoils from this species of employment, and turns to those in which the hands are engaged, while the thoughts are free; then the needle is the grand resort, and skill in its use becomes the source of unalloyed happiness. Thousands of ladies of the highest birth and fortune, can bear testimony to the truth of this remark; while others, who scorn the needle as the badge of drudgery, seek in vain for quiet pleasure, and are consumed with ennui and listlessness."

(click to enlarge images)
I guess it's good to know that I'm keeping up with my "female education."

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