Silverware Off-loom Woven Beadwork c1780 French
Skill in beadwork and other needle arts contributes to the subtle art of catching a husband.
Until the 20th century, marriageability depended on a girl’s repertoire of beauty, status, money, household management skills, needle arts skills, and feminine entertainment. That meant music – voice and instruments - generally piano or possibly a stringed instrument. And art - a girl’s education was focused on skills for homemaking and family. From a young age, girls were taught fiber or needle arts – sewing, knitting, embroidery, and if wealthier, beadwork.
Slippers for Husband Bead Embroidery with Fur Trim c 1850 English
Fire Screen Exotic Parrot Bead Embroidery c1840 English
Fiber arts provided one of the few ways for women to compete – to illustrate their social graces, to illustrate their skills in household management – all for the goal of finding and keeping a husband. A woman could display her art and accomplishments on items for everyday use. She could do so without “showing off”. Her touch could be anywhere in her environment – the sitting room, the parlor, the salon, or on her as clothing and accessories. Women and girls frequently made beadwork objects as gifts for their friends or lovers or husbands. Their fiber arts included clothing and household items that covered beds, tables, trays, shelves, firescreens, wallets, paperweights, boxes, and pictures.