Find of the Week: The school girl sampler test at Ursuline Academy

NEW ORLEANS -- News with a Twist has teamed up with the Historic New Orleans Collection to bring you a unique find each week from the museum's vaults.

Today, it's one of the earliest school exams from one of the oldest schools in the South -- Ursuline Academy.

In 1814, students who attended the Ursuline school for girls were given needlepoint tests to show their knowledge in a variety of skills. The needlework sampler was meant to show what the girls learned from the teaching of the Ursuline nuns, who arrived shortly after the city's founding.

"It shows that she knows her alphabet.  She's knows her numbers.  She knows many different types of stitches. It shows she understands her Catholic education as well," said Lydia Blackmore, Decorative Arts Curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection.  "Usually school girl samplers are done on the East Coast in Protestant schools or Quaker schools.  To find a Catholic piece like this is very interesting."

It's the earliest known example of a Louisiana sampler, documenting children's history at a time when educating young women was uncommon.

"It is quite a privilege for Pauline to be going to school, learning how to read and write," Blackmore said.  "Of course in the 18th Century women really needed to learn how to sew because they were probably making most of their clothes and repairing their family's clothes."

Pauline didn't quite finish that sampler test, but she eventually passed it years later. She married into the Sarpy family of New Orleans and lived a full life.

The Sarpy family gave the HNOC the historic sampler test in 2004.

You can see all the Historic New Orleans Collection has to offer by visiting either one of their campuses. The Royal Street campus, including The Shop at The Collection, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Chartres Street campus, including the Williams Research Center and Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Learn more about the Historic New Orleans Collection here.

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