For some time I’ve been developing an interest in schoolgirl art–typically examples of painting and embroidery–and I’ve always been interested in cartography, so when I read a recent post on one schoolgirl’s hand-drawn maps at the Vault, Slate’s history blog, I was immediately enchanted. I began searching for more, and this post is the result of my intermittent efforts. The maps featured in the Vault’s post were drawn by Vermont schoolgirl Frances Henshaw in 1823: the entire collection of her 19 (out of then 24) state maps can be accessed at the David Rumsey Map Collection’s website, along with their beautiful calligraphic descriptions.
Maps and description drawn by Frances Henshaw of Middlebury Female Academy, 1823. Courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection, © Cartography Associates.
It turns out that Frances was at a very progressive school, receiving instruction in a “reformed” curriculum advocated by its former principle, Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) whose 1819 Plan for Improving Female Education established her reputation as the dean of girls’ education and led to her placement at what became her namesake school. Mrs. Willard believed that young women should be instructed in topics that were previously beyond, or outside, their reach: mathematics, philosophy, history, geography. And so we see the creation of these charming annotated maps, I think I have a new collection obsession, but if all of the sold lots below are any indication, I fear that I might be a bit late to the party.
Detail of pen-and-ink map of Massachusetts drawn by Maria C. Butler of Utica, NY in 1815 (before Mrs. Willard’s plan–maybe she gets too much credit?), sold by Andrew Spindler Antiques, a great shop up in Essex; Quaker map of the United States by Anna A. Wilbur of the Friends School, Providence, 1835, Skinner Auctions; Watercolor map of the western and eastern hemispheres by Ann E. Colson and Laura Northrop, Athens, NY, 1809 (also before Emma), Northeast Auctions; Map of South America by Massachusetts schoolgirl Tirzah Bearse, 1831, Joan R. Brownstein Art and Antiques.