In the nineteenth century, every young girl looked forward to the time when she would be considered old enough to create her first sampler. It was a measuring rod used by society that told the young they were growing up. It was also one of the first skills a girl learned to keep her hands busy and to one day beautify a household of her own.
Annie Mariah and Mary Jane, ages 6 and 8, had begged their mother for over a year to begin this training. But, as they began to rebuild their lives in Cedar Fort, Utah, they were left little time for such things in 1864.
That first year, all hands were needed no matter how small, to build a shelter. Theirs was a modest cabin that would house the 8 members of their family in one room, until a larger, more comfortable home could be built.
Their father, aided by their older brother, George Albert, cut and shaped the logs dragged from the surrounding mountains. This took over a month of backbreaking labor even with mother’s help to lift the logs into places she was able. Annie and Mary Jane, joined by their older sister Elizabeth and brother Charles, were assigned to fill in the gaps between the logs with mud as they helped watch their younger brother. And, there was always much gardening to be done.
There simply was no time to learn embroidery!
There were times when a respite in chores was granted, but the girls did not dare bring it up because mother was so very tired. When they did have the courage to ask, all mother would say was…..”Soon,……there is a season for everything.”
The exhausting summer turned into autumn and the cabin was finally finished. The few things they were able to grow were harvested and painstakingly preserved. The girls helped their mother make rag rugs for the cabin’s dirt floor as they finished their preparations for the winter.
Snow came early to the valley and the children now stayed indoors. A sense of excitement was shared between the girls as they realized that the work which had occupied most of their time every day, would now be put aside until spring.
One evening as mother was darning socks, they asked if the ‘season’ for embroidery had come. With their younger brother asleep and father and George still not home from hunting, she paused a long moment and gazed thoughtfully into the fire.
Finally, she looked up and smiled. She went to her trunk and pulled out the two pieces of Irish Linen she had saved for this very purpose. Then, she dug out the two embroidery hoops to stretch it on, some colored floss and some needles. After all their waiting with anticipation, Mother pulled her daughters close and began. The time had finally come to teach her ‘little ladies’ how to make their ‘first stitches.’