Miranda’s Sampler

Please forgive errors. My eyes still have traces of dilation drops from today’s visit to the eye doc.

The mail brought an enlightening piece of history over the weekend. To raise funds, the Connecticut Historical Society included an image of a sampler made by an eight-year-old African American girl. I recognized it immediately.

Miranda Robinson of Saybrook sewed it in 1839. She gave it to my grandmother, Bertha James Lane. It eventually landed in  my mother’s collection of antiques.

CHS name-checked both Anna Louise James and Ann Petry in discussing the provenance of the work. Mother and CHS genealogist Judith Johnson unearthed more history.

CHS acquired the sampler in 1990, and I wrote a story for the Middletown Press about it.  I remember searching for her grave in hip-deep weeds at the Upper Cemetery with photographer Cathy Avalone. She took a stellar picture of Miranda R. Anderson’s grave, surrounded by weeds. The story ran, and a week or so later I paid a return visit. The entire area had been mowed and tidied. Wish all photos produced such quick results.

CHS says, “This sampler is not just an example of a young girl’s needlework skills. It is a lens through which we can better understand our fascinating past.”

In digging around for more information, I found a note in Mother’s journal that my grandmother’s autograph collection included a signature from “Aunt Rannie.” Sure enough, it was the first one in the blue velveteen book.

The image falls short as a reproduction but looks good for age 132.


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