March 27

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-London Gazette (March 27, 1772).

“To teach reading, and all Kinds of Needle-Work.”

As spring arrived in 1772 advertisements for boarding schools for girls and young women appeared in several newspapers in New England.  Mary Homans took to the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that “she shall open a BOARDING SCHOOL for Misses, the first of April.”  Her pupils would “be taught any Sort of Needle Work,” but that was not the extent of the curriculum.  She concluded her advertisements with “Likewise Reading and Spelling.”

Elizabeth Hern’s advertisement in the New-London Gazette suggested a similar course of study for young ladies.  Although she stated that she “would take Children from other Towns, and Board and School them, at a very reasonable Rate,” her description of her curriculum made it clear that she taught skills intended for female students.  Like Homans, she planned to open her school on April 1.  She listed reading first, but then added “all Kinds of Needle-Work, viz. working on Pocket-Books and Samplars, Embroidery on Canvass or Muslin.”  Hern further elaborated that her pupils would “also learn Wax Work, or to paint on Glass.”

Reading and some forms of needlework were practical skills, but Homans and Hern sought students whose families desired more than just a practical education for their daughters.  They wished for those young ladies to become proficient in feminine activities associated with gentility and leisure that would testify to their social standing.  Notably, they did not open schools in Boston or New York or any of the other major urban ports.  Instead, they served students in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New London, Connecticut, and “other Towns.”  Just as colonizers throughout the countryside participated in the consumer revolution, acquiring the various imported goods so often advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette and the New-London Gazette, they also cultivated manners and learned skills intended to enhance their status.  For young women, that sometimes meant that learning “to paint on Glass” had as much cultural significance as learning to read.

March 9

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Mar 9 - 3:9:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 9, 1770).

“She will endeavour to Teach young MISSES the various Arts and Branches of NEEDLE WORK.”

When Ruth Jones prepared to open a school in Portsmouth in 1770, she placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform the community of her intent as well as attract students.  Given the curriculum, Jones restricted her pupils to girls or, as she put it, “young MISSES” who desired to learn “all the various Arts and Branches of NEEDLE WORK.”  She planned to teach “Needle Lace Work, Needle Work on Lawn, Flowering with Cruel, working Pocket Book with Irish Stitch, drawing and working of Twilights, marking of Letters, and plain Sewing.”  She added “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to the end of the list to indicate that she possessed skills in other “Arts and Branches” of needlework that she could also transmit to pupils in her charge.  She depicted herself as much as an artisan as a schoolmistress, replicating the language of “Arts and Branches” of a trade that frequently appeared in newspaper advertisements placed by artisans of all sorts.

Jones supplemented her “NEEDLE WORK” curriculum with teaching “young Children to Read,” though she did not mention writing and arithmetic nor any advanced subjects that schoolmasters and many schoolmistresses included in their advertisements.  While she covered a vast array of techniques for using the needle, her curriculum was otherwise narrow and specialized.  She delivered instruction primarily in a homosocial environment.  Presumably any boys among her pupils learning to read were quite young rather than adolescents.  Parents of “young MISSES” did not need to worry about distractions caused by young men at Jones’s school.  The advertisement suggested that they would be able to focus on their stitches, interacting with each other but not the opposite sex.

Jones advanced two primary appeals in her advertisement.  She underscored her own expertise in needlework, listing the many “Arts and Branches” of the trade that she had mastered and could pass on to pupils.  She also sketched a homosocial learning environment in which young women could master the various stitches free from interruptions by young men.  She did not explicitly make the same appeals about tending to the manners and comportment of her female charges as other schoolmistresses made in their advertisements, but parents of prospective pupils may have considered that implied in Jones’s notice.