Textiles are celebrated as the principal and most vibrant contribution that early American girls and women made to the decorative arts. The style of this sampler emerged from early girls’ academies in Providence and Warren, Rhode Island, established and run during and after the American Revolution by widows to support their children. Joanna Maxwell stitched this sampler at age 11. She lived her life in the seaport town of Warren, and this example, dated 1793 and bearing the phrase “Wrought in Warren,” is the earliest known of a distinguished group. It depicts a pastoral scene of adults and children among animals and foliage, with lines of an acrostic verse praising truth, wisdom, God, and goodness stitched in the center, the first letter of each verse spelling out Joanna’s name when viewed in a vertical orientation. Her sampler is beautifully executed, and more than two centuries later, the needlework retains much of its original color and brilliancy.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Joanna Maxwell, American, 1782–1847
Silk on linen
16 3/4 × 13 1/4 in. (42.5 × 33.7 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, museum purchase funded by the Houston Junior Woman's Club in honor of their forty years of service to Bayou Bend

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

By descent, the Maxwell family; consigned to [Skinner, Bolton, Massachusetts, October 29, 1988, sale 1222, lot 180]; [Marguerite Riordan, Stonington, Connecticut]; purchased by anonymous owner, by 1989; [Stephen & Carol Huber, Old Saybrook, Connecticut]; purchased by MFAH, 2009.