Those (Not so) Weird Victorians: Female Accomplishments

KNITTING AND NEEDLEWORK.—Madame de Genlis observes, that nothing is less becoming to a woman than to appear awkward at such occupations, or to affect a contempt of them. “A woman, sitting unemployed, and in a state of total idleness,” says she, “seems to assume the attitude of a man; but in so doing she loses the grace that characterises her sex.” There are many women who persuade themselves that the occupations particularly allotted to their sex are extremely frivolous; but it is one of the common errors of a depraved taste to confound simplicity with frivolity. The use of the needle is simple, but not frivolous.

Although the sentiments of French writer and educator Madame de Genlis (1746–1830) predate the Victorian era, her work inspired other contemporary writers such as Jane Austen (1775–1817), and she is mentioned in Victorian-era novels such as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The readers of Ladies’ Needlework; Knitting Tales and Poetry: A Melange of Instructions and Amusements, originally published in England in 1849, would have more than likely been familiar with her work. Today’s needleworkers understand that the execution of their craft is far from frivolous!

Read more of female accomplishments and Victorian words of wisdom from Ladies’ Needlework available as a PieceWork eBook.

—Elizabeth


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