Needlework sampler made by Mary Murphy
The tradition of young girls completing samplers as part of their training in the domestic arts was well established by the time Australia was colonised in the late 18th century. Europeans brought with them the belief that needlework skills were an essential part of a girls practical and moral education. Accordingly samplers often demonstrated skill through the use within their design of letters, numbers and pictures, and piety with the inclusion of religious or dutiful verses.
These samplers were produced by Mary Murphy, whilst she was training to be a governess at the Female Model School, Kildare Place, Dublin, between around 1832 and 1837. Mary Murphy brought the samplers to Australia in the 1860s and used them to educate her nieces, for whom she served as a governess and teacher in domestic skills. After her death the collection was divided amongst her nine nieces. The pieces held by the Museum come from descendants of two of the nieces.
They provide an insight into the range of skills regarded as necessary for women at the time, demonstrating the range of design, fabrication and construction techniques taught to Irish women in the 1830s. They are also a reminder of the care that went into the making of clothes and their preservation through techniques such as patching and daring. In addition they are an excellent example of one means by which these skills were transferred to Australia. The excellent provenance of this collection makes these samplers particularly interesting.