An absolutely rare sampler (17"x17") dated June 4th, 1830, signed by it's maker, "Lavinia Wonn." Samplers like this are extremely rare and valuable. Lavinia may have been 8-10 years old when she made this sampler. The archivist of the Oblate Sisters Of Providence, a Black Catholic Order (Baltimore) said the following about the possibility of Lavinia Wonn being a student at St. Frances School for Colored Girls. "We do not have her listed as one of the early students but it is still possible she attended the school since names of the day students were rarely recorded. I will keep my eye out for any mention of her in our records to see if she was a student there."
-- BACKGROUND: The teachers at St. Francis sometimes taught students known as the "Children of The House." These children were not slaves. They were girls who were either orphans or half orphans that the sisters took in. The archivist of the Oblate Sisters of Providence is not aware of any student that was a slave while attending St. Frances. The archivist goes on to state, "We do have several manumission documents and certificates of freedom in our collection of women who obtained their freedom and then became sisters. These girls were taught for free, and usually entered the Convent and became sisters themselves. Some children were taught free but most paid tuition and some even boarded. It was the income from the paying students that supplemented the free tuition. A few girls did remain and become sisters the majority did not. It was against the law in the late 1700's and early 1800's for a Black person to receive an education. Reading and writing were strictly forbidden. It was never illegal to teach anyone in the state of Maryland - not slaves, not free people of color, not anybody. There were no free public schools for black children until 1868 in Maryland while public schools for white children began in 1828. In a few places schools were quietly operating, one in New England and the other in Baltimore, MD. There were several Protestant schools for black children in Baltimore in the antebellum period. One can review Christopher Phillip's excellent book, Freedom's Port (except that he doesn't mention the Oblates), for more information and confirmation of what has been stated." The Oblate Sisters of Providence have the largest single collection of 19th century schoolgirl samplers worked by African American girls in the world. Take a look at the images of some of the samplers on their website.
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