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Reticule

  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1827 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lines, Samuel, born 1778 - died 1863 (designer (pattern))
    Female Society for Birmingham (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, printed in black, with steel frame and chain

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss E. F. Howard

  • Museum number:

    T.20-1951

  • Gallery location:

    Fashion, Room 40, case CA2

This bag with its associated pamphlets is one of two in the Museum collection that were produced by the Female Society for Birmingham as part of their campaign for the abolition of slavery. The Society was founded in 1825 (originally called the Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves) in West Bromwich, near Birmingham. The bags were made by women at sewing circles where objects decorated with abolitionist emblems were produced to decorate their homes and for distribution as part of their campaigning activities.

The image of the black slave woman nursing her child printed on the front of this bag was one of a series commissioned specifically by the Society for distribution in albums of prints and on their propaganda merchandise. This particular image appeared on other abolitionist objects, including transfer-printed plates. The workbags were presented to King George IV, Princess Victoria and other aristocrats and wives of prominent politicians, as well as to other women's anti-slavery societies. The significance of this image of a nursing mother is that it countered the common stereotype of the time of black women as licentious and lustful. These images were very successful in encouraging an emotional engagement with the plight of slave women, but in the long term passive stereotypes such as these were very detrimental in the struggle against racism.

Physical description

Bag of pale pink silk with a steel frame and chain. The front of the bag is printed in black with an image of a black woman, seated under a tree, carrying a baby with hills and a house in the background. On the other side is a printed text.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)

Date

ca. 1827 (made)

Artist/maker

Lines, Samuel, born 1778 - died 1863 (designer (pattern))
Female Society for Birmingham (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silk, printed in black, with steel frame and chain

Marks and inscriptions

Negro Woman, who sittest pining in / captivity and weepest over thy sick / child: though noone seeth thee, / God seeth thee; though noone pitieth thee, / God pitieth thee; raise thy voice forlorn / and abandoned one; call upon him / from amidst they bonds for assuredly / He will hear thee
Decoration; printing

Dimensions

Length: 23.5 cm, Width: 20 cm

Object history note

This bag was produced and sold by the Female Society for Birmingham, the first and most important female abolitionist group in Britain. It was previously known as the Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. The bag was probably intended as a work-bag for use by women at sewing circles. Abolitionist women made objects decorated with abolitionist emblems to sell and to decorate their homes. The image of the black slave woman nursing her child printed on the front of this bag was one of a series commissioned specifically by the Society for distribution in albums and on their propaganda merchandise. This particular image appeared on other abolitionist objects, including transfer-printed plates. Another bag in the V&A's collection is printed with another image from the series. The significance of this image of a nursing mother is that it countered the common stereotype of the time of black women as licentious and lustful, and therefore tempters of owners and overseers, or at least the architects of their own abuse at the hands of owners and overseers. These images were very successful in encouraging an emotional enagagement with the plight of slave women, but in the long term passive stereotypes such as these were very detrimental in the struggle against racism.

Historical context note

Bags such as this were produced by groups campaigning for the abolition of slavery. The bags were sold with campaigning materials such as pamphlets and newspaper extracts and a card explaining the purpose of the bags. Women were particularly involved in the dissemination of abolitionist material culture, such as bags, pin-cushions, jewellery, prints and pamphlets, particularly in the late 1820s when women increasingly dominated the movement.

Britain officially ended its participation in the slave trade in 1807, though British banks continued to provide credit to foreign traders and the institution of slavery remained intact in the British Empire. Slavery was not abolished within the British Empire until 1834 (the Emancipation Act was actually passed in 1833), though slaves were required to serve a further 7 years as apprentices to their masters.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Walker, Lynne, and Ware, Vron. Political pincushions: decorating the abolitionist interior 1787-1865. In : Bryden, Inge and Floyd, Janet, ed. Domestic space: reading the nineteenth-century interior . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999. pp. 58-83. Purse illustr. on p. 72.
Midgley, Clare. Women against slavery: the British campaigns, 1780-1870. London & New York: Routledge, 1992.

Materials

Silk (textile); Printing ink; Steel

Techniques

Printed; Sewing; Weaving

Subjects depicted

Women; Children (people by age group); Slaves

Categories

Accessories; Black History; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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