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  • Lee Sigler

Recognizing Women’s Art

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

Art created by women historically has not been recognized as art – because the artists were women.

Women's art that is ignored includes the home and needle arts - sewing, knitting, and beadwork. From the 1700s on, beadwork was an integral part of a young girl’s education in needle arts. Beadwork was created as needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crochet, netting, and loom weaving. The resulting work adorned everything from slippers to samplers to cigar cutters in the nineteenth-century home from Victorian England across the European continent to Tsarist Russia, and reaching across the ocean to both North and South America. The heyday of beadwork was between 1800 and 1880.

Beadwork and Needlework Portrait of Victorian Lady English c 1875

Beadwork items were cherished and displayed with pride. Pretty beadwork tools and supplies were used everyday – pincushions, workbaskets to hold scissors, needle cases, and thimble holders. Knitting required special tools like the two cuffs for holding a ball or capping the ends of the double pointed needles used then. A lady’s desk might contain beaded items such as a cylindrical paper holder, blotter, a pen wiper, a stamp holder, a whetstone for sharpening the knife for quill pens, and a paperweight. There might be small notebooks or folios covered with beadwork panels. Beadwork spectacle cases would hold reading glasses. Gifts were made with beadwork decoration.

Beadwork sewing tools - needle cases, pin cushions, thimble cases and little boxes

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