ARTS 1A De Anza College Week 10 The Ebbo Gospels Discussion


Analyze two art pieces, one paragraph for eachI upload the files below,you can use discussion, comparison, contextualization, and other forms of analysis.discussions and analysis of works of art; view and take notes on chapter 3 documents which demonstrate different techniques of art making; and explore historical documents produced by artists and their patrons. You need to consider the ideas of professional art and architectural historians through their publications.”discussion 10.pdf” and “group analysis 10.pdf” are the two files you need to answer, others are notes. There is a video that you can watch:

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ARTS 1A: Group Analysis 10
Describing style
For this exercise, consider a page from an illuminated manuscript, The Ebbo Gospels, produced
in France in the ninth century.
In last week’s chapter (Chapter 9), three words were introduced for the purpose of
discussing style: natural, abstract, and ideal. Review the definitions of these words in Chapter 9
before proceeding with this group analysis.
Carefully consider the artist’s approach to style in this representation of St. Matthew as you
address ANY the following questions:

In what way(s) is the artist’s approach to form(s) natural? Point out details that allow you
to characterize this artist’s style as natural.

In what way(s) is the artist’s approach to form(s) abstract? Point out details that allow
you to characterize this artist’s style as abstract.

In what way(s) is the artist’s approach to form(s) ideal? Point out details that allow you to
characterize this artist’s style as ideal.
* * *
ARTS 1A: Discussion 10
Ideas and art
For this discussion, consider Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Questions), a mural at The Museum of
Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1989-1992).
Address any of the following questions in your discussion post. You do not need to address
more than one question.

What do you find to be more powerful: the questions asked within this mural or the
visual design of the mural itself? Explain your response by exploring one or more
questions within the mural, or by describing the visual design of the mural in detail.

Would Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Questions) be as successful if it were smaller and
meant to be displayed indoors? Why or why not?

If you were to design a red, white, and blue text-based mural, what questions would you
ask? Would your questions be similar to Barbara Kruger’s? Would they be different?
Where would you paint your mural?
* * *
“Each Wise Nymph that Angles
for a Heart”
The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Andrea Pappas
This essay examines the Boston fishing lady embroideries in light of eighteenth-century courtship practice, depictions of
women anglers in prints and on decorative porcelain, and recreational fishing in colonial culture. In representing the
fishing lady as a successful independent angler, women needleworkers addressed, and even covertly resisted, male control
of courtship, a crucial life transaction. The regular placement of the image of the fishing lady in the narratives created
by the complex embroideries asserts the woman’s pivotal, if brief, authority in the courtship process.
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.
( John Donne, The Bait, 1633)
O READ the opening and closing verses
of John Donne’s 1633 poem, The Bait, a meditation on love and courtship. Cast as a suggestive metaphor, one that imagines women in
the role of fisher and figures men as helpless fish,
Andrea Pappas is associate professor of art history at Santa
Clara University.
The author thanks Amy Hudson Henderson and Kirstin
Ringelberg for their comments on and suggestions for an early
version of a larger text from which this project is drawn; Michelle
Burnham for reading a draft of this article and for her suggestions
and support; Stephen Carroll for his editorial and rhetorical expertise; and Kathleen Maxwell for her eagle eye. Thanks also go to the
author’s research assistant, Samantha Nelson, for last-minute factchecking. She is grateful for the comments and encouragement offered by the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript, the assistance
and advice of Amy Earls and the Winterthur Portfolio staff, and for
Susan Newton’s and Carrie Glenn’s help with locating and securing
illustrations and the associated permissions. Thanks also go to all
who supplied images. This research was partially supported by an
SCU College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Grant for Research and
by the SCU Provost’s Faculty Student Research Assistant Program.
B 2015 by The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum,
Inc. All rights reserved. 0084-0416/2015/4901-0001$10.00
this rhetorical figure was a staple of more than English pastoral poetry. In fact, in the eighteenth century, visual images of the woman angler appeared on
both sides of the Atlantic. A century after Donne
penned his poem, young women at one or more finishing schools in Boston used “silken lines” to create
new versions of this imagery in the renowned fishing
lady embroidered pictures, primarily dating from
1740–70. As in Donne’s poem, the image—both textual and visual—of the woman fishing had ties to
courtship; fishing functioned as a metaphor for
women patiently “luring” men with their looks
and feminine accomplishments, the ultimate goal
being an advantageous, successful marriage.1 In
the years before women began to make these fishing
Fishing was a staple of pastoral imagery in poetry between
the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. David McMurray, “‘A Recreation Which Many Ladies Delight In’: Establishing a Tradition
of Fisherwomen in Britain and North America Prior to the MidNineteenth Century,” Sport History Review 43, no. 2 (November 2012):
152 nn. 40–41.
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
lady embroideries, norms for courtship and marriage had been evolving, a companionate model
for marriage edging out existing views of it as a social, political, or economic alliance between families.2 Artifacts such as prints, decorative ceramics,
and the fishing lady embroideries register and participate in that change; thus, the fishing woman
should be understood within this context. To date,
these mid-eighteenth-century embroidered pictures have been discussed primarily for their
function as a kind of capstone project in an elite
woman’s education or for their role in the family’s
presentation of its gentility and fashionable taste.3
This essay takes a different tack, pulling together
several strands of inquiry in order to illuminate
The growing literature on courtship, marriage, and sexuality
in eighteenth-century British America depicts an intricate web of
influences on the norms for courtship, marriage, and the changes
that took place in these norms over the course of the century. Recently, these investigations have focused on women’s experience
in particular. See Carol May Barske, “‘The Lover’s Instructor’:
Courtship Advice in Anglo-America, 1640–1830” (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2011). For changing ideas
about the relationship between love and sex in the eighteenth
century, see Ruth Bloch, “Changing Conceptions of Sexuality
and Romance in Eighteenth Century America,” William and Mary
Quarterly, 3rd ser., Sexuality in Early America, 60, no. 1 ( January
2003): 13–42. For courtship letters and a model of courtship
more nuanced than the old polarity between love and money,
see Nicole Eustace, “‘The Cornerstone of a Copious Work’: Love
and Power in Eighteenth-Century Courtship,” Journal of Social
History 34, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 517–46; Richard Godbeer,
“Courtship and Sexual Freedom in Eighteenth-Century America,”
in “Sex, Courtship, and Dating,” special issue, OAH Magazine of
History 18, no. 4 ( July 1994): 9–13; Ingrid H. Tague, “Love, Honor,
and Obedience: Fashionable Women and the Discourse of Marriage in the Early Eighteenth-Century,” Journal of British Studies 40,
no. 1 ( January 2001): 76–106.
For example, Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework, 2 vols. (New York: Knopf, 1993);
Pamela Parmal, Women’s Work: Embroidery in Colonial Boston (Boston:
MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2012); Mary
Jaene Edmonds, Samplers and Samplermakers: An American Schoolgirl
Art, 1700–1850 (New York: Rizzoli/Los Angeles County Museum
of Art, November 7, 1991–February 2, 1992). The considerable
body of literature on embroidery sounds this theme repeatedly.
Ring and Parmal, provide, respectively, early and recent examples
of this approach. A different tack is taken by Maureen Daly
Goggin, “‘An Essamplaire Essai’ on the Rhetoricity of Needlework
Sampler-Making: A Contribution to Theorizing and Historicizing
Rhetorical Praxis,” Rhetoric Review 21, no. 4 (2002): 309–38, which
theorizes embroidery as discourse. William Huntting Howell,
“Spirits of Emulation: Readers, Samplers, and the Republican Girl,
1787–1810,” American Literature 81, no. 3 (September 2009): 497–
526, looks at the role of emulation in embroidery pedagogy and
citizenship. Jennifer Van Horn examines embroidery instruction
as a vehicle for upward mobility in Jennifer Van Horn, “Samplers,
Gentility, and the Middling Sort,” Winterthur Portfolio 40, no. 4
(Winter 2005): 219–48. Laurel Ulrich briefly examines the connection between pastoral embroidery and marriage in Laurel
Thatcher Ulrich, “Sheep in the Parlor, Wheels on the Common:
Pastoralism and Poverty in Eighteenth-Century Boston,” in Inequality in Early America, ed. Carla Gardina Pestana and Sharon
V. Salinger (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England,
1999), 182–200.
the hitherto overlooked significance of the fishing
lady embroideries for women: the changing contours of eighteenth-century courtship practice, fishing as one line of recreational pursuit in colonial
culture, women anglers as depicted in print and
material culture (often accompanied by lines of poetry), and the images of women anglers that women
patiently stitched with strands of wool and silk. Pulling threads from print, material, and visual culture
allows us to weave a new interpretive frame for these
embroideries that illuminates how women, in these
needleworks, transformed preexisting images of
women fishing, extending our understanding of
the politics of courtship in American visual culture.
One such embroidery visualizes this courtship
metaphor by isolating the figure of the fishing
woman and her suitor. We see a couple, framed
by a pair of trees, in the center of this large embroidery stitched by Susan Colesworthy in 1765 (fig. 1).
Birds, trees, and flowers populate the lush landscape. The elegantly dressed gentleman gestures
to his right while paying court to the woman on
his left. She, finely attired and seated with her back
to him, turns her head to listen to his address while
her body faces the fish on her line and the pond
that fills the lower right corner of the picture. Off
to the right behind the woman, partially occluded
by a tree, a large building sits amid rolling hills,
perhaps alluding to domestic life. Colesworthy positioned a basket overflowing with fish at the woman’s
feet: is the fishing lady displaying her “bait” or her
prowess for him? Below the gentleman several dogs
frolic near a reclining stag; does this allude to his
“hunt” for a wife? Does this genteel interaction in
nature depict a fantasy of courtship practices at
mid-eighteenth century, a time when they were under pressure? And what can such iconographical
cues reveal about women’s engagement with the
politics of courtship among America’s elite in the
eighteenth century? In order to answer these questions, we must first look at the social and material
backdrops for the making and meaning of these
needlework pictures.
Courtship and Matrimony
During the eighteenth century courtship and matrimony were key sources of change, for better or
worse, in one’s social and economic status. Marriage created and cemented alliances between families and shifted women, and frequently property,
from the houses and families of their birth to those
of their husbands. In the seventeenth century the
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 1. Susan Colesworthy, fishing lady embroidery, Boston, 1765. Silk and wool yarns on canvas; H. 21¼ , W. 24¾ .
(Gift of Susan E. Brock, Nantucket Historical Association.)
model for marriage began to diverge from a patriarchal conception of marriage as a public transaction, largely due to the waning of Puritan morality
and the growing ideation of the self as individual
rather than as social.4 The marital ideal evolved
from one that saw love developing after marriage
to one in which men and women expected to find
love before it.5 Although increasingly rooted in the
individual desires of the couple, such motives included those concerning social status and economic
Eustace, “Cornerstone of a Copious Work,” 518. See also the
classic study by Daniel Scott Smith, “Parental Power and Marriage
Patterns: An Analysis of Historical Trends in Hingham, Massachusetts,” Journal of Marriage and Family, special section, New Social
History of the Family, 35, no. 3 (August 1973): 419–28.
Merril D. Smith, Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730–1830 (New York: New York University Press, 1991),
future as much as those centered on love, companionship, and mutual respect.6 Men largely controlled the process but, by the middle of the
eighteenth century, there were ways women could
exercise power, direct and indirect, in the course
of courtship and in their choice of husband. Courtship customs affected both sexes: it marked the
transition from youth to adulthood and proclaimed
that status publicly. Courtship was a transaction, but
the stakes, and their meaning, differed somewhat
for men and women. Power was unevenly distributed across the gender gap and over the temporal
Bloch, “Changing Conceptions of Sexuality and Romance,”
esp. 17, 25–30, 37–38, 40. Barske, Eustace, and Bloch stress the
agency that women enjoyed in courtship. See Barske, “Lover’s
Instructor”; and Eustace, “Cornerstone of a Copious Work,” in
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
duration of the courtship process; thus, women and
men approached it with divergent strategies.
Women needed to consider their economic future as well as compatibility when choosing a partner. The stakes for women were high; they were
essentially exchanging one keeper on whom they
were dependent—their natal family—for another,
their husband’s. The abundant advice given to a
woman on the topic of courtship in the eighteenth
century stressed the need for her restraint—she
could not pursue a man nor reveal her feelings or
preference too early in the process for fear of being
thought immodest or unchaste, yet she needed to
attract his attention.7 Thus, women, though perfectly willing to discuss their feelings in letters to
their female interlocutors, remained reticent on
such matters when corresponding with potential
suitors.8 This silence left men to initiate the courtship process but also meant that they had to declare
themselves before receiving assurance that their offer of marriage would be accepted. In that window
between offer and acceptance, women had control;
some women kept men dangling for months.9
Women could not exercise their privilege of
choice unless men had a significant investment in
the process also. Even though men initiated the
courtship process, and it was largely in male hands,
men needed marriage to progress from youth to
manhood; they depended on contracting a marriage to advance to the status of head of household. 10 They thus required the cooperation of
women to make this social transition from youth
to manhood and to avoid the social ridicule associated with involuntary bachelorhood, a circumstance that could not have been lost on women.11
This raised the stakes for men; needing women’s
cooperation to achieve full masculinity, they risked
being subject to a “catch and release”—the humiliation of a rejection. Men courting women may have
enjoyed legal and social power and freedom denied
Barske, “Lover’s Instructor,” 4, 28.
Nicole Eustace has analyzed at length how this power dynamic found expression in the divergent rhetorical styles employed by men and women when they wrote letters to each
other. The power dynamic shows up again—albeit expressed differently—in the ways men and women discussed love and courtship in letters exchanged with their same-sex friends. My
discussion of these letters is indebted to her penetrating study
(Eustace, “Cornerstone of a Copious Work,” 519, 527).
Ibid., 535.
Bloch, “Changing Conceptions of Sexuality and Romance,”
19–42; Eustace, “Cornerstone of a Copious Work,” esp. 520; Toby
Ditz, “Shipwrecked, or Masculinity Imperiled: Mercantile Representations of Failure and the Gendered Self in Eighteenth-Century
Philadelphia,” Journal of American History 81, no. 1 ( June 1994): 65.
Eustace, “Cornerstone of a Copious Work,” 531.
to women, but the shifting balance of power in the
courtship process frequently caused anxiety, as
their letters to their friends and family reveal.12
Men and women had leverage at different points
in the courtship process; men largely controlled
it, but once a man declared himself, he was like
the fish that had taken the bait. Once she accepted
his offer, the woman found herself again without
leverage. The disposition of power in courtship
ebbed and flowed between men and women, and
this fluidity allowed women to drop their lines in
the water, so to speak, and to decide whether or
not to keep a man who was a good catch.13
The Material Universe of the Embroideries
The “fishing lady” embroideries comprise a distinct
subset of a larger group of embroideries with pastoral themes produced from the 1730s through the
1790s and were first identified as a group on the basis of the fishing woman motif in Helen Bowen’s
short article of 1923.14 Although Boston was the location of the school or schools that produced these
embroideries, the students came from a much
larger area in New England, testifying to the significance of the fishing lady image across New
England culture. The group has grown to include
similar pastoral embroideries that omit the fishing
lady in favor of shepherdesses, harvest scenes, dancing figures, and so on. The group has now swelled
to nearly sixty, but only about a quarter of them
contain the image of the fishing woman.15 While
shepherdesses abound in countless colonial samplers and embroideries, the figure of the woman
fishing is unusual. Compositional evidence from
the embroideries suggests at least two finishing
schools and maybe as many as four.16 Most of these
Ibid., 527–28.
Ibid., 527. See also Barske, “Lover’s Instructor,” 9–10, and
chap. 3, which discusses Benjamin Franklin’s Reflections on Courtship and Marriage, published in 1746.
Helen Bowen, “The Fishing Lady and the Boston Common,” Antiques (August 1923): 70–73.
By 1941 the group numbered fifty-eight, with only twelve of
those incorporating the fishing lady motif. Nancy Graves Cabot,
“The Fishing Lady and the Boston Common,” Antiques ( July
1941): 28.
Most of the fishing lady figures seem to be derived from a
single source. However, in some of them she is reversed, suggesting
that patterns were printed and reprinted, thus reversing the figure.
Schoolmistresses using differing techniques to transfer the pattern
to the fabric—direct transfer of a charcoal trace of a pattern vs. freehand drawing—could also result in the reversal of the figure. Both
of these possibilities point to at least two schoolmistresses either
using different versions of the same source or different methods
to transfer it to the fabric. There are two embroideries that are
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
embroidery makers are anonymous, and known
ties between them consist of two signed pieces;
the best evidence for links between the women
who made these is the embroideries themselves.
Thus, tracking individual needleworks to specific
schools has helped illuminate both existing kinship
ties and known or postulated social networks
forged by colonial women as they moved around
New England to attend school; this approach dominates much of the extant literature.17 While thinking about these pastoral embroideries in large
groupings helps elucidate the broad scale of visual
culture in Boston at this time, it obscures the possible significance of the motif of the fishing lady, my
objective here.
Shifting the frame of inquiry away from the fabric of finishing schools in order to attend to the needleworks as analogues of paintings allows new
insights to come forward. These objects are large,
ranging from about 18 inches square to some 20
by 50 inches. Formatted as chimneypieces, the
larger ones, in particular, were outfitted with elaborate carved and partially gilded frames (a few original frames still exist), mounted under glass, and
hung in parlors and dining rooms.18 Their treatment, in other words, was much more like paintings
than like other needleworks such as bed hangings
and wallets, which were put to practical use; these
needlework pictures were made to be displayed
in prominent places. Worked primarily with tent
stitches in wool, or silk and wool, the embroidered
pictures exhibit a smaller range of stitches than
many samplers. The tent stitches gave the embroidery a more or less flat, even surface, and their tiny
size allowed for the rendering of details (such as the
folds in stockings or woven basket patterns; fig. 2),
not unlike the way small pixels give a digital display
a sharper image than do large ones. Further, the
glass in the frame contributed to a shiny, smooth
surface not unlike a painting. In their original
eighteenth-century context they, unlike most
needlework, took their place on the walls with mirrors, paintings, prints, and a few items of “fancy
work” (such as quillwork or scrollwork decorations
not derived from the figure of the woman sitting on a hillock,
and these two suggest at least two more schoolmistresses or
women employing entirely different sources for the figure of the
fishing woman.
Susan Schoelwer, in particular, provides an interesting and
detailed examination of kinship networks and family embroidery traditions in her study of needlework of the Connecticut River Valley.
Susan P. Schoelwer, Connecticut Embroidery: Women, Art, and Family,
1740–1840 (Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 2010).
On the expense of these frames, see Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 1:57.
with candle sconces), indicating the high regard
given to these needlework pictures. Eighteenthcentury viewers thus encountered these brightly
colored, lavish objects in much the same manner
as they encountered paintings.
In terms of materials, embroidery had connections to fishing that went beyond the image of the
fishing lady. Anglers’ fly-making and embroideries
employed the same materials; an early fishing manual, published in 1694, explicitly urges the novice
angler to carry in one’s kit bag, for tying flies, “silks
of all sorts, threads, thrums, moccado-ends, and
cruels of all sizes, and variety of colors, diversified
and stained wool … twisted fine threads of gold
and silver.” 19 The description could easily fit a
lady’s workbag; these materials were used in pictorial embroideries, and women from well-to-do
families would have been familiar with them from
late childhood. Further, the first fishing manual,
A Treatise of Fishing with an Angle (1496), then attributed to Dame Juliana Berner, has an extensive discussion of the different colors of lines needed for
fishing, as well as detailed instructions for dyeing
them.20 Artificial flies were not advertised in the
colonies until 1770, so until then anglers had to
tie their own.21 For example, a fly for use in May
had a body made of red wool wrapped in blue silk,
with wings made from duck feathers.22 Women
with extensive experience in fine sewing would
have had the requisite facility in dealing with the assorted fibers, small feathers, beads, and other materials required by both embroidery and by making
flies. Indeed, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler,
familiar to eighteenth-century readers, describes
Richard Franck wrote two treatises on angling; the first, written in 1658, was not published until 1694. A second book “written
in America” appeared in 1708. See Charles E. Goodspeed, Angling
in America, Its Early History and Literature (Cambridge, MA: Riverside
Press, 1939), 22. “Thrums” were the bits of warp thread left on the
loom after the fabric has been removed; the term also refers to
small lengths of unspun fleecy fiber. “Moccado-ends” refers to
worsted woolen yarn. “Cruels” is familiar to us today as “crewel.”
Many scholars now believe the attribution is spurious;
however, in the eighteenth century this was still believed to be a
woman-authored text. The full text of the treatise is available at
Renascence Editions:
Susan A. Popkin and Roger B. Allen, Gone Fishing: A History
of Fishing in River, Bay and Sea: An Almanac for the Leisure Time Pleasure of All Who Succumb to the Lure of Fishing (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 1987), 20.
Hannah Woolley, The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight in Preserving, Physick, Beautifying and Cookery: Containing I, The Art of Preserving and Candying … , II, The Physical Cabinet … and The Art of
Angling, III, The Compleat Cooks Guide …, 2nd enlarged ed.
(London: printed for Nath. Crouch, 1677), 220. Digitized copy
available at
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 2. Detail of Sarah Warren fishing lady embroidery (see fig. 18).
not just fly-tying but also discusses an artificial minnow “that will catch a trout as well as an artificial fly;
and it was made by a handsome woman, that had a
fine hand.”23 Walton marvels at her skill at some
length, describing in detail her use of different col23
Five editions of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler appeared
between 1653 and 1676, and it was reprinted ten times in the
eighteenth century. “Bibliographical Note,” The Canterbury Project, Other books on fishing which enjoyed several printings in the mid-eighteenth century
include The Gentleman Fisher (London: H. Curll, 1727); Richard
Bowlker, The Universal Angler (Worcester: M. Olivers, 1758); A
Gentleman Who has made Angling his Diversion Upwards of
Twenty-Eight Years, The Gentleman Angler (London: A. Bettesworth,
1726). Other editions of the latter include a second edition with
extensive additions (London: A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, 1736),
editions published in London by C. Hitch (1740 and 1743), and an
edition in 1786 published in London by G. Kearsley. There is also
The Complete Family-piece, and Country Gentleman, and Farmer’s Best
ored silks, beads, and a feather to produce a replica
“so curiously wrought, and so exactly dissembled,
that it would beguile any sharp-sighted Trout in a
swift stream.” Walton himself here seems rather beguiled by her skill while linking needlework and
angling through their common materials. Angling
thus had associations with women and the material
goods of the domestic sphere well before the fishing lady embroidered pictures began to appear in
Boston in the 1740s.
The tools for embroidery and fishing also had a
common origin. Eighteenth-century fish hooks
Guide (London: J. Roberts, 1736), and a second edition (London:
A. Bettesworth, 1737). The same title appeared over the imprint of
T. Longman, London (1736), among other publishers—it seems to
have been quite popular. For the artificial minnow, see Walton, The
Compleat Angler (New York: Heritage Press, 1948), 86–87.
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
were produced by needle makers in England; fishhooks and needles often appear on a single invoice
issued to a merchant.24 Goods imported for both
embroidery and fishing included silks, beads, needles, and fish hooks—just the kind of merchandise that could be found in small shops, some of
them run by women. One such woman, Elizabeth
Murray, who also taught embroidery, ran a shop
in Boston that carried (among other things) “crewells” and “silver and gold thread.”25 Intriguingly,
sewing kits and needle cases sometimes took the
form of fish (fig. 3) or fisher folk. Thus, the tools
and accessories that women handled in their
needlework embodied further links between women,
embroidery, and fishing.
Fishing in Colonial Culture
Recreational fishing garnered widespread attention
in the upper levels of colonial society in the eighteenth century. In the social sphere, 1732 saw the
first American fishing club (the Schuylkill Fishing
Club) with two more following near Philadelphia
alone in the next few years. Although Schuylkill Fishing Club was an all-male preserve, it had ladies’ visiting days, and its membership rolls, drawn from the
upper reaches of Philadelphia society, stamped recreational fishing as an elite activity.26 In the political
arena, laws aimed at fishing appeared in the early
eighteenth century as colonial governments sought
to preserve nature’s resources for the common good.
For example, in 1715 the Connecticut General Assembly began to regulate dam building and water
flow on rivers, specifically to safeguard migratory fish,
and in 1734 New York passed its first law regulating
fishing—restricting it to angling—in the common
pond in order to preserve the fish population.27
Letters and invoices in the Richard Hemming Archive
clearly show that he was manufacturing both needles and fish
hooks in the eighteenth century. I am grateful to curator Jo-Ann
Gloger for providing me with scans of these invoices. Jo-Ann
Gloger, correspondence with the author, Richard Hemming Archive, Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey, Redditch,
Worcestershire, United Kingdom.
Patricia Cleary, Elizabeth Murray: A Woman’s Pursuit of Independence in Eighteenth-Century America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), 55–57. Cleary notes that the shop across
the street from Murray’s, run by Mary Jackson, carried assorted
Kate Haulman, “Rods and Reels: Social Clubs and Political
Culture in Early Pennsylvania,” Early American Studies (Winter
2014): 143–73. Kate Haulman identifies fishing and dancing
clubs as key sites of political discourse.
Strother B. Roberts, “‘Esteeme a Little of Fish’: Fish, Fishponds, and Farming in Eighteenth-Century New England and the
Compared to commercial methods, such as netting
or seining, angling (fishing with a rod and line,
rather than a net or spear) is inefficient subsistence
fishing, thus the law converted the common pond
into a site for leisurely pursuits, at least as far as fish
were concerned. The interest in fishing as a recreational activity was formalized in the first American
publication on angling, published in Boston in
1743, just as the fishing lady appears in women’s
embroidered landscapes.28
Did real women fish? In spite of few surviving
chronicles of their daily lives in this period, women
—at least those from the upper echelons of colonial
society—were aware of and participated in this fishing culture, and some of their comments on this pastime have been preserved. In August 1737 William
Penn’s daughter, Margaretta Penn Freame, wrote to
her brother in London from Philadelphia, relaying
that “My chief Amusement this summer has been
fishing. I therefore request the favor of you when a
Laisure Hour will admit, you will buy for me a four
joynted strong fishing Rod and Real with strong
good Lines and assortment of hooks of the best
sort.”29 Freame speaks with authority; for example,
she knows what kind of rod she wants: the fourjointed rod was an improvement over the threejointed rod and was specifically designed to be easily
portable. She wants a “strong” rod, perhaps as a result of her current rod’s insufficiency when subject
to the thrashing of a good-sized fish. She also knows
that she needs different kinds of hooks for different
kinds of fish, and the emphasis on “strong good
lines” implies that she has had experience with broken lines on more than one occasion.
In England, angling as recreation expanded
from the aristocracy to the merchant class in the
second quarter of the eighteenth century, leading
to the proliferation of tackle shops on both sides
of the Atlantic.30 The increase in tackle shops in
the colonies speaks to a growing fishing culture;
in the same year Freame wrote to her brother, a
Mid-Atlantic,” Agricultural History 82, no. 2 (Spring 2008):143–63,
esp. 150–52. On 157 Roberts notes that the New York law transformed the city’s pond into a purely recreational resource.
Joseph Seacombe, Business and Diversion Inoffensive to God,
and Necessary for the Comfort and Support of Human Society Utter’d in Part
at Ammauskeeg Falls, in the Fishing Season, 1739 (Boston: S. Kneeland
& T. Green, 1743).
Freame’s letter appears in “Notes and Queries,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 31 ( January 1, 1907): 123,
Popkin and Allen, Gone Fishing, 20–21, reproduces several
advertisements and a receipt for General Cadwallader’s angling
supplies issued by Edward Pole, held in the collection of the
Historical Society of Philadelphia.
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 3. Fish-shaped needlework case containing small knife and scissors, ca. 1765–90. Sharkskin and silver. (Gift of
Mrs. Reginald Allen, Historic New England.)
Philadelphia merchant, Samuel Neave, advertised
fishing gear for sale.31 Indeed, twenty years after
Freame placed her order for tackle, twenty-twoyear-old Philadelphia resident Hannah Callender’s
laconic diary entry from May 14, 1759, notes that
she “rode a mile to Preserve Brown’s where we
passed the morning agreeably in seeing his mill
and its works, attending to the fall of the water,
pleasing discourse, fishing &c. till 2 O’clock.”32 Real
women did fish, and they seem to have done so with
some regularity.33
Pennsylvania Gazette, 1737, in Popkin and Allen, Gone Fishing, 20.
Hannah Callender Sansom, The Diary of Hannah Callender
Sansom: Sense and Sensibility in the Age of the American Revolution,
ed. Susan E. Klepp and Karen Wulf (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2010), 103.
Her friend, Elizabeth Drinker, also records fishing parties
in her diary entries for June 21 and August 2, 1781. Henry B. Biddle,
Fishing was such a noticeable activity in colonial
society that a British traveler, Andrew Burnaby, remarked regarding his travels in 1759–60, about
fishing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia:
“There is a society of sixteen ladies, and as many
gentlemen, called the fishing company, who meet
once a fortnight on the Schuylkill … it is very advantageous to a stranger to be introduced to it, as he
hereby gets acquainted with the best and most respectable company in Philadelphia.”34 Although
ed., Extracts from the Diary of Elizabeth Drinker from 1759 to 1807 AD
(Philadelphia: J. B. L. Lippincott, 1889). Digital copy available at
Andrew Burnaby, Burnaby’s Travels through North America,
3rd ed. (New York: A. Wessels, 1904), 97–98, 117. The book
was first published in 1775, and the full text is available at the Library of Congress, The
club dates to 1732. Haulman notes that the Schulykill Fishing
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
the Schuylkill Fishing Company did not admit
women, Burnaby notes the presence of them; perhaps
he attended on one of the infrequent visiting days
for ladies or is referring to one of the other fishing
clubs in the area. He commented similarly on the
social life of the New York elite, again noting the
presence of women: “Their amusements are much
the same as in Pennsylvania; viz. balls, and sleighing
expeditions in the winter; and, in the summer, going in parties upon the water, and fishing. … There
are several houses pleasantly situated upon East
River, near New York, where it is common to have
turtle-feasts. These happen once or twice in a week.
Thirty or forty gentlemen and ladies meet and dine
together, drink tea in the afternoon, fish and amuse
themselves until evening, and then return home.”35
Fishing remained an important focus for community activity—including women—throughout
the century. George Washington recorded four
fishing trips during the Constitutional Convention
in 1787, one at Mrs. Jane Moore’s farm on July 30,
and two on August 3 and 4: “in company with Mr.
Robt. Morris and his Lady, and Mr. Gouvr. Morris I
went up to Trenton on another fishing party … in
the evening fished, not very successfully.”36 Eight
years later, in 1795, visiting Englishman William
Priest recorded that in small towns and among
farmers, “twelve or fourteen neighbors form themselves into a sort of club, and agree to fish one day
a week during the summer. … At five the ladies arrive, and the company amuse themselves in catching fish for supper, walking in the woods, swinging,
singing, playing on some musical instrument,
Women could prepare themselves for these fishing outings by reading a housekeeping manual
such as Hannah Woolley’s The Accomplish’d Lady’s
Delight. Published first in 1675 in London, the second edition (1677) was expanded to include a section on angling in addition to the original texts
treating food preservation, household medicine,
cooking, and beauty secrets. Angling, she declared
Company did not admit women to its ranks but did have visiting
days for ladies. This does not preclude the existence of other fishing groups, loosely organized, that did not leave records.
Burnaby, Travels, 117.
Entry for August 3–4, 1787, Diaries of George Washington,
6 vols. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1976–79).
Digitized copy available at American Memory Project, Library of
William Priest, Travels in the United States of America
(London: J. Johnson, 1802), 93–94. The book is available as an
unpaginated e-book from Project Gutenberg at http://www
in the book’s “dedicatory,” was “a recreation which
many Ladies delight in, and is not therefore
thought altogether improper in a Book of this Nature.”38 The expanded tenth edition, published in
1719, offers this section to “the female angler, instructing ladies and others, in the various methods
of taking all manner of fish, in the fish-pond or
river.”39 Similarly, W. S.’s A Family Jewel: The Woman’s
Counsellor … , first published in 1704, includes a
section on angling. Angling’s presence in these
books directed to women indicates that they were
expected to participate in this activity frequently
enough to warrant instruction in it alongside guidance for cooking, child rearing, beauty secrets, and
the like.40 Although fishing was a leisure activity, it,
like cooking, also had a practical dimension, as one
could eat the result of one’s endeavors; the reader
of this book was prepared for both.
Recreational angling for men and women was
one of many leisure activities developing and
spreading in the eighteenth century. 41 Angling
was an acceptable, respectable form of recreation
for women in England and in the North American
colonies.42 Fishing parties contributed to the courtship process; they provided regular occasions for
socializing, group entertainment, and an occasion
for young men and women to interact under the
watchful eyes of parents or chaperones. Although
the historical record leaves much deeper traces of
men’s angling activities than women’s (women do
Woolley, Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight, A3. On the availability of
cookbooks and household manuals in the colonies, see Julia Cherry
Spruil, Women’s Life and Work in the Southern Colonies (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1938), 209–12.
Woolley, Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight, cited in Bonhams,
“Auction Details” and “Sale Notes” for lot 474, May 22, 2012,
London, available at
Nicholas D. Smith, “Reel Women: Women and Angling in
Eighteenth-Century England,” International Journal of the History of
Sport 20, no. 1 (2003): 31. Smith also discusses the representation
of women anglers in eighteenth-century British art, 36–40.
The literature on leisure is extensive. For a sample, see
Peter Burke, “The Invention of Leisure in Early Modern Europe,”
Past and Present no. 146 (February 1995): 136–50; and the ensuing
debate, Joan-Lluís Marfany and Peter Burke, “Debate: The Invention of Leisure in Early Modern Europe,” Past and Present no. 156
(August 1997): 174–91, 192–97. See also David S. Shields, Civil
Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina Press, 1997).
David McMurray, “‘A Rod of Her Own’: Women and
Angling in Victorian North America” (MA thesis, University of
Lethbridge, Alberta, 2007); see 19–51 for discussion of the history
of angling and women prior to the Victorian era in England and
in her North American colonies, and see also McMurray, “‘A Recreation Which Many Ladies Delight In’: Establishing a Tradition
of Fisherwomen in Britain and North America Prior to the MidNineteenth Century,” 129–58; Smith, “Reel Women.”
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
not appear to have formed angling clubs, for one),
nevertheless the trace can be followed. A taste for
angling undoubtedly contributed to the choice of
imagery in the fishing lady embroideries. They thus
depict an activity that, if not necessarily engaged in
by the specific women embroidering them, was part
of the recreation of the upper social classes to
which these women belonged.
Representations of Angling
In the eighteenth century a variety of material and
visual objects, such as prints, porcelain tiles, and
decorative china, depicted women anglers; these
other media inform how the embroideries can be
interpreted. Prints and material objects with angling imagery and treatises on fishing such as Izaak
Walton’s The Compleat Angler—which included
Donne’s poem The Bait in its entirety—were consumed in large numbers. Retailers on both sides
of the Atlantic distributed fishing manuals as well
as mezzotints and engravings.
An engraving by John Simon (fig. 4) is one of
several published in this period that expresses the
visual link between fishing and relations between
men and women.43 These prints, based on a painting by Jacopo Amigoni, also served as source material for decorations in other media, as seen on this
Meissen vase (figs. 5, 6). Although the image on the
vase is reversed and features an additional figure, it
shares with the prints a key figural grouping; a
young female angler and her male companion appear beside a stream. In this and similar views, she
sits, holding her rod and flanked by the young man
and a basket full of fish. She wears a fine dress, with
an embroidered or beribboned stomacher; her full
sleeves are pushed up and her apron is somewhat
rumpled in her lap, testifying perhaps to the physical requirements of angling in spite of her loose
grip on her diminutive rod. She leans back a bit
against the rocky outcrop on which she sits, a basket
of fish by her side. The young man attending her
wears knee breeches, a long coat, and a shirt. A
Simon’s plate was published by Thomas Burford as Water
(an impression in much better condition than the one illustrated
here can be seen online at
&page=1 and
assetId=949432001&objectId=3339016&partId=1). Unfortunately,
as the museum would grant only short-term renewable rights for
online use of the print in its collection, it could not be reproduced
in this essay.
Fig. 4. John Simon after Jacopo Amigoni, The Element
of Water, London, 1730–42. (© National Trust; photo,
Sue James.)
long-poled landing net rests against his shoulder,
and with a pleased expression he proffers a large
The vase both celebrates the erotic potential of
the fishing metaphor and underscores the vigilance
women must exercise in order to maintain their
sexual virtue when confronted with male desire.
Whereas the source print evenly divides the composition between the man and the woman, on the vase
he takes center stage. Here, the eroticism of the image is enhanced by the presence, behind him, of a
large, straight, limbless tree crowned with a large
bird nest, an unmistakably phallic element that echoes his offering of a sizable fish to the woman wearing a yellow and orange dress. (The putto perched
atop the shoulder of the vase similarly resonates
with both his posture and his suggestively held fish.)
Behind the woman, at the very edge of the image,
a second, smaller woman angler turns her head
to meet the young man’s eyes; perhaps he hopes
either woman will accept his fish. The first woman’s
rod points directly to top of the phallic tree, which
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 6. Detail of figure 5.
Fig. 5. Johann Joachim Kaendler and Peter Reinicke after Jacopo Amigoni, vase, The Element of Water, Meissen,
Germany, mid-eighteenth century. Enameled porcelain;
H. 1200 –1300 . (Dalva Brothers, New York.)
accentuates the gentleman’s wanton intent; she
seems to curb his action on behalf of both women.
Because both women have rods and are seated
more or less side by side, the young man appears
to be interrupting them. The angling women do
not appear to be fishing for men as Donne’s poem
might suggest; rather, they seem virtuously uninterested in his fishy offer.
When Thomas Burford republished Simon’s
plate, he added four lines of poetry below the image. The first couplet describes the action in terms
that recall Donne’s poem: “While Chloe’s bait the
finny race allures / Assisting Strephon with his
net secures.”44 The couplet attributes power and
primacy to the woman: she starts the action; he
merely assists with a net once the difficult task of
catching the fish has been completed. The position
of the fish as a phallic instrument projecting from
his body conflates him with one of the “finny race
allure[d].” She has hooked a big fish indeed on this
lush afternoon; the image visibly ties together angling and courtship—or at least sexuality. He offers
her the fish and perhaps himself, although she does
not seem to be impressed by either; after all, as the
basket testifies, she has caught other fish already.
She holds her rod to her left, above her lap, its angle and position suggesting that the destination of
his fish is between her slightly spread knees.45 Yet
The impression held in the National Trust has its inscription nearly entirely obscured by the frame. See the impression in
the British Museum, reg. no. 2010,7081.605, for a clear view of
the inscription.
On the association of these postures with fecundity, see Susan
E. Klepp, “Revolutionary Bodies: Women and the Fertility Transition in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 1760–1820,” Journal of American
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
her rod also arrests his approach; it checks the fish
before he can put it down. In keeping with these
mildly eroticizing elements, he stands near, but
not touching her. Her backward-leaning posture
creates some distance from him, and her deterring
gesture with the rod implies that the future of this
encounter hinges on her, not his, choice and that
the proper outcome is not dalliance, but marriage.
The second couplet in the caption makes this explicit: “Thus each wise Nymph that angles for a
heart / Trusts Hymen only with the landing part.”46
In contrast to the first couplet, the second one
sounds a cautionary note for women; women should
not let their “fishing” go so far as to descend to coquetry. Rather, they should rely on marital customs
to complete the transaction, as virtuous women do
not abuse their power of attraction in casual flirtation. Properly deployed, such power has its limits.
“Chloe” and “Strephon,” staples of English pastoral
poetry, and Hymen, the minor Greek god of marriage, would be familiar to educated men and
women in the Anglo-American world. As courtship
literature of the time cautioned men against giving
too much weight to women’s beauty and attractiveness when selecting a wife, they would understand
the image as a representation of the tension between sexual attraction and the social and economic
goals of marriage.47 These images of well-dressed
figures and their caption cast the potentially divergent agendas of men and women around courtship,
sexuality, and marriage in terms of an activity set in
nature—angling—alluding to the woman’s agency
and power of attraction while at the same time cautioning her against going too far in its exercise.
A few years later another print addresses angling, this time with a different tone; attention to
gentility replaces suggestive references to sexuality.
Mezzotints, such as Thomas Burford’s new series
depicting the months of the year, highlight angling’s popularity with the inclusion of a woman angler representing the month of August—when fish
were assumed to be fattest (fig. 7).48 First published
in 1745 and reissued several times thereafter, the
History 85, no. 3 (December 1998): 924–25. For the nineteenthcentury outcome of the link between fishing women and romance
novels, see Ronald T. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, “The
Romance of Fisherwomen in Antebellum New England,” American
Studies 39, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 5–30.
Another version of this, reversed, with the same couplet,
printed and published by Robert Sayer sometime after 1760, is in
the British Museum Collection Online, reg. no. 2010,7081.2124.
In this collection see also The Anglers’ Repast, 1789, after George
Morland, published by John Raphael Smith.
Barske, “Lover’s Instructor,” 4.
Woolley, The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight, 195.
print shows a well-dressed, upper-class woman holding a fishing rod; a basket displaying her catch rests
on her lap.49 One arm rests on her lap, cradling the
shallow basket, her curving, open palm directing
the viewer’s eye to the scene behind her of a couple
fishing from a rowboat in an expansive country
landscape. The fish in her basket lie end to end,
echoing the back-to-back positioning of the couple,
a seated man and a matronly woman. Her other
arm confidently rests in a proprietary manner
along her fishing rod. The bower immediately behind her with its deep shadows stands in for the
background drapery found in grand manner portraiture. This image, then, deploys contemporary
portrait conventions to position angling as a fashionable recreation while the pair of fish and the
middle-aged couple lead the viewer to associate
fishing with marriage.
A second allegorical image of August, issued in
1767, ties together angling for fish and for men
more explicitly than the print of 1747 (fig. 8).
The later mezzotint has a similar composition, but
the rod is now in the woman’s right hand, and her
left holds up her line to display a small fish, still on
the hook. Behind her, instead of a couple, we see a
lone male fishing on the opposite bank of the river.
The length of line she holds up for the viewer’s inspection visually continues the line he has dropped
in the water. His fish is hers to take and, by extension, so is he.
William Woollett’s etching and engraving of
1757 makes explicit the genteel, if not downright
aristocratic, association between women and angling in the eighteenth century (fig. 9). It presents
a view of the garden of the Duke of Argyle at
Whitton (now known as Whitton Park).50 It depicts
the large, rectangular formal canal lined with cedars on both sides and a neo-gothic tower in the distance. This elegant setting encloses equally graceful
men and women who singly, in couples, or in small
groups, stroll about admiring the scenery. In the
lower right foreground stand two ladies with fishing
rods accompanied by a gentleman (fig. 10). Just behind this group of three figures, two other elegantly
dressed women converse as they stroll up the path.
One woman gestures with her fan toward the fishing group they have just passed; angling, like polite
On the Spitalfields silk fabric of her dress and its transatlantic consumption, see Zara Anishanslin Bernhardt, “Portrait of a
Woman in a Silk Dress: Hidden Histories of the Aesthetic Commodities in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World”
(PhD diss., University of Delaware, 2009), chap. 2.
British Museum Collection Online, object description, reg.
no. 1849,0328.31.
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 7. After Thomas Burford, August, London, 1745. Mezzotint with hand color; H. 15⅛00 ,
W. 11⅛00 . (Museum purchase, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 8. Robert Sayer, August, London, 1767. Mezzotint with hand color; H. 14¾ , W. 10¾ .
(Museum purchase, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)
conversation, is an occasion for display of refined
manners and skills.
However, as pictured here, those skills have
limits. The gentleman companion of the ladies with
fishing rods appears to help one to bait her hook;
her line is loose and leads the eye to the confluence
of their hands. Behind her, to the left, the second
woman appears to have caught something; presum-
ably, the gentleman has earlier assisted her as he
does now for her companion. The fishing woman’s
rod bows as if weighted, and a small fish emerges
from the concentric ring of ripples centered on her
line. Her dainty posture and extended arm make it
clear that she will require assistance in landing the
fish. Here, women engage in angling, but it is
framed by male agency; women need the assistance
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 9. William Woollett, A View of the Canal and of the Gothick Tower in the Garden of His Grace the Duke of Argyl at Whitton,
London, ca. 1750–60. Printed for Robert Sayer, John Boydell, Henry Parker, Carrington Bowles, and Robert
Wilkinson. Etching and engraving; H. 15.100 , W. 21.300 . (Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art.)
of men before dropping their lines in the water and
later, when landing their catch. These aristocratic
woman appear to be successful in their angling
efforts, but, in contrast to other images, their activity is positioned as an extension or subset of male
Mezzotints like Burford’s and Woollett’s were
widely disseminated, as angling had become a part
of transatlantic culture. As noted in the caption,
Woollett’s plate was printed for five different sellers
in London, and Burford’s images were reprinted
and appropriated by other printers, indicating a
large demand for this kind of image.
Prints functioned not just as embellishments of
domestic spaces but also as source material in the
visual culture of colonial high society. For example,
portraitists borrowed poses from engravings or
mezzotints after English portraits while schoolmistresses and drawing masters used landscape
and genre images as springboards for embroidery
designs, often borrowing motifs or even entire com-
positions.51 Schoolmistresses and drawing teachers
also sold patterns as commodities in their own
right.52 Some of the same printmakers publishing
images of women fishing also published designs
for needlework as well as pattern books.53 The unknown designer of the fishing lady embroideries
may have borrowed the image of the fishing lady
See Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture: The Economic, Religious, Social, Cultural, Philosophical, Scientific, and Aesthetic
Foundations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986). A
more recent study from a material culture point of view is Margaretta
Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in
Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005),
esp. chaps. 1 and 3, for the use of prints as source material for portraits on both sides of the Atlantic. See also Ring, Girlhood Embroidery;
and Cabot, “The Fishing Lady and the Boston Common,” on print
sources for embroideries.
Parmal, Women’s Work, 68–69. Davida Tennenbaum
Deutsch, “Needlework Patterns and Their Use in America,” Antiques
(February 1971): 368–81, offers an overview of needlework patterns
in Anglo-American culture from the sixteenth through nineteenth
Deutsch, “Needlework Patterns,” 375.
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 10. Detail of figure 9.
from an English playing card manufactured in
the early eighteenth century.54 She sits, elegantly
dressed, on an embankment, with a fish on the line
(as indicated by the curved end of her rod), while
her gentleman companion, his gaze resting on her,
angles awkwardly and futilely from the far side of
the stream. The card positions the woman as in
command; she, like “Chloe,” has more than one
kind of fish on her line.
Images of a woman fishing turn up not just in
prints and on vases but also on decorative objects
such as porcelain plates and tiles produced both
in Europe and in China, the latter incorporating
images from Western sources and made for the
Western market. For example, the ardent, fishbearing gentleman from Simon’s Water print turns
up again, this time on an enameled plate (fig. 11)
manufactured in China for the export market.
Simon’s couple also appears, reversed, enameled
This is reproduced in A. Hyatt Mayor, “The Hunt for the
Fishing Lady,” Antiques 112 ( July 1977): 113. Mayor’s caption
places the card, a seven of diamonds, in the Cary Playing Card
Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at
Yale. However, the Beinecke library has no catalog entry for this
object. I am grateful to the staff for their extended attempts to
locate it in response to my request to reproduce it here. A discussion of the significance of the seven of diamonds as a powerful
“stopper” card in the eighteenth-century card game called “Pope
Joan” is beyond the scope of this essay.
in grisaille on a Chinese export porcelain saucer.55
The return of these images to the West on porcelain plates produced decades after the initial print
was struck indicates the extensive circulation of
English prints at this time as well as the popularity
of this image. Further, the plate in figure 11 and the
reversed version on the saucer suggest that Simon’s
or Burford’s print and a copy made their way to
China. Both the appropriation of the male figure
and reversed grisaille evidence the widespread
availability of this and other images in eighteenthcentury visual culture.
The plate and its borrowed imagery also tell us
something about the depiction of women’s competency in fishing; it pictures an elegantly dressed
woman fishing with her gentleman friend standing
next to her. A diminutive figure, possibly a child or
a servant, accompanies them. The recreational nature of angling registers here in the fine clothing of
the man and woman and their relaxed postures.
Notably, the woman has a fish dangling from her
line, and the small figure appears to reach out toward it, as if to grab it when she swings the pendulant
This was sold at auction on February 7, 2015, lot 954,
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, ME, http://
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 11. Fishing lady plate, Jingdezhen, China, 1750–75. Enameled porcelain; D. 8⅞00 .
(Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur; photo, Laszlo Bodo.)
fish ashore. The basket on the other side of the man
already holds a few fish, indicating her success. The
male figure holds a tiny fish in one hand; this could
be her most recent catch, which he is transferring
to the basket, or it could be a bait fish that he readies for her hook. This depiction features fishing as a
genteel activity and, at first glance, appears to emphasize the woman as the active agent, providing an
image of female power and control: she fishes, and
the male figure serves merely ancillary functions.
However, the presence of the castle-like building
behind them, coupled with the servant/child figure, suggests that this is a married couple, maybe
even a family, on an afternoon’s pleasant outing.
Her agency is thus subtly contained within the
frame of domesticity and concomitant subordination to her husband.
Porcelain tiles, used as fireplace surrounds,
sometimes featured images of people at work and
play. One such tile, manufactured in England, depicts recreational fishing (fig. 12). The tile shows
two men and a woman, fashionably dressed, ensconced in a small clearing by a creek or river.
The men have rods; the woman sits between them.
On her left, one young man stands with an upright
fishing rod, line slack, as he inspects (or perhaps
baits) the hook. It is possible that, like the gentleman in the Duke of Argyle’s garden, he is assisting
the woman with her line, and her upraised right
hand and expectant look at him support this supposition. On the other hand, she is not actively fishing
here and is just as likely to be a captivated spectator
of the men’s activity that literally frames and contains her gaze and actions. The young man to her
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 12. John Sadler after John Bowles, fireplace tile, Liverpool, 1757–61. Printed earthenware; H. 500 , W. 500 . (Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur; photo, Laszlo Bodo.)
right leans back against the pull on his rod as
he hauls in his catch—he nearly appears to be
reclining—or perhaps he was reclining and has,
like the fish, been caught by surprise. At his right
rests a woven basket packed with fish, and several
more rest on the ground immediately next to it, testifying to the party’s expertise or, at least, luck. This
image, like the others discussed so far, positions
fishing as a leisure activity for men and women,
but it remains ambiguous as to the woman’s competence and even her participation in this activity.
The prints, plates, and tiles picturing women
fishing, and their overlapping circulation, show
the availability of images depicting angling as a
refined activity for women in the mid-eighteenth
century. In these visions, women have a range of relationships to angling—as accomplished solo fishers, fishing with assistance, or merely looking on
while men fish. Yet, men, not women, designed
and manufactured these prints and other objects.
They generally depict the woman as the central figure and agent but subtly place her activity as framed
by or subordinate to men. When the woman is depicted as an expert, independent angler, she functions not as a representation of women per se but,
rather, as removed from the present to the ideal
world of pastoral poetry populated by “Chloe”
and “Strephon,” or she figures as a stand-in for an
abstract concept, such as one of the elements or a
month of the year. These images advertise women’s
activities as anglers and, by extension, their skill in
attracting suitors. Yet, by including admonishing
captions, rendering the woman angler as a static
icon, or predicating her efforts on those of men,
they also carefully contain women and their skills
within the wider arena of male agency and power.
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
The Fishing Lady Embroideries
Although the prints and ceramics—along with contemporary fishing practices—contextualize the image of the fishing lady that women incorporated
into their embroidered pictures, the popularity of
these images does not exhaust the possible meaning of the fishing lady image for women. Women
appropriated many elements from prints for their
needlework; some of them, such as scenes of harvest, are centuries old. The artificiality or theatricality of their presentation does not render them
meaningless. On the contrary, the communal origin of these images testifies to the significance of
these images to the women and the wider culture.
Hence, secondary figures often found in the foreground of the fishing lady embroideries—the hunter,
stag, dogs, and others (fig. 13)—appear in English
embroideries as well as those produced in New England.56 Other shared motifs that contribute to the
setting/context for the figures frequently include a
brick house with smoking chimney, windmill, domestic and wild animals, and fruits such as strawberries and pears.57 These shared motifs speak to
common, widely circulated sources as well as link
these needlework masterpieces with the samplers
women made in childhood; for example, sampler
borders frequently featured strawberries. Women
rendered these ancillary figures at a smaller scale
than those comprising the main image. The difference sets up a hierarchy; those smaller figures are
less important and become a kind of commentary
on the design expressed in the larger register.
The fishing lady sometimes turns up as an isolated motif. One undated example (fig. 14), its vertical format consistent with a fire screen, features
the typical fishing woman and gentleman attendant. Here the stitcher has omitted the usual small
foreground figures while retaining the built structures (house, windmill) in the background. The
landscape here is lush and dense, the surface crowded with vegetation, a compositional feature resembling English embroideries more than the other
fishing lady works. Likewise, the representation of
space is much more consistent with perspectival
Goggins, “‘An Essamplaire Essai’ on the Rhetoricity of
Needlework Sampler-Making,” sees embroidery as a discursive
practice; this approach can be expanded to include the repeated
use of these motifs as visual vocabulary elements with a range of
significations. However, such an investigation is beyond the scope
of this essay.
Fishing and pear picking are both associated with the late
summer or fall season, as is the harvest. Future inquiry into the
imagery on these embroideries might include the significance of
such seasonal imagery.
norms for painting than the schematic, hierarchical arrangement that typifies the other fishing lady
pictures. Still, the single figural grouping follows
the pattern of a woman fishing in the company of
a well-dressed man.
Even embroideries that depart markedly from
the format and, to a lesser extent, the style of other
fishing lady pictures still retain the key figure of the
woman fishing in the center. The unknown maker
of a unique, original composition (fig. 15) retains
the stylization of features such as the brick house
in the background and the trees; however, the landscape is rendered as a more or less flat, continuous
surface, rather than as overlapping rows of small
undulating hillocks. Here the fishing lady’s male
counterpart sits in the foreground, playing a flute,
while she fishes on the far side of the pond that links
them. She, like other fishing ladies, has a basket at
her feet for her fish. Her seated posture differs
from the other fishing ladies; she sits closer to the
ground, and her skirts spread out around her,
rather like the woman fishing from a boat in the
background of figure 7. Although a man appears
in the image, their activities are conducted separately from one another; it seems she only fishes
for fish, not men.
Her short rod suggests that she might be bait
fishing (dropping a line and waiting for fish to bite)
rather than fly fishing (actively manipulating the
bait in the water). Angling manuals of the time
did not draw a strong distinction between the two
modes. Rather, the species of fish one seeks determines how the line is manipulated. Walton, for example, describes several methods of fishing,
depending on whether one wants the bait on the
surface of the water (this is aided by a cork on the
line just above the bait) or on the bottom, or somewhere in between.58 Because of the crude nature of
eighteenth-century equipment, especially fishing
lines (which were made of horsehair), there was
not as much difference between bait fishing and
fly fishing as there is today.59 (Not until the early
nineteenth century would line quality improve enough to allow for extended line casting as we think
of it.) Although Hannah Woolley describes a
16-foot rod with a winder, the embroidered fishing
ladies’ rods have no reels, which indicates they are
not casting with dozens of feet of line. This is in
Walton addresses this throughout the text in his discussions
on bait and on the character of each species of fish. See, for example, Walton, The Compleat Angler, 54 (“on top of the water”),
136 (“in the midst of the water”), 179 (“with your hook always
touching the ground”).
Goodspeed, Angling in America, 119.
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 13. Detail of Warren fishing lady embroidery showing staffage figures (see fig. 18).
keeping with the imagery of both men and women
fishing in the prints and ceramics shown. But, as
Margaretta Penn Freame’s letter indicates, she
was quite familiar with the use of a reel and therefore also with much longer lines than those in the
pictures. Either the source material or composition
of the embroideries might have led to the depiction
of a short rod; the 11- to 13-foot rods pictured in
the prints by Burford and Woollett would, if rendered to scale in the embroideries, intersect the
frame of the image, visually dividing line from
rod. In the case of the multifigure compositions discussed below, the rod would noticeably intrude into
the space of the adjoining figure groups; either
way, the composition would be less legible.60 Whatever the determinant of this short rod was, its effect
is to position the fishing woman as less aggressive in
seeking her fish than she would appear were she
holding a very long rod equipped with a reel. Thus,
the shorter rod undercuts the possible interpretation of the fishing lady as a coquette and narrows
the focus to the moment of her choice.
The composition of large chimneypieces allowed for several groups of figures; the relationships
between them can be telling. Eunice Bourne, the
daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant, produced
a large needlework chimneypiece featuring a fishing lady sometime between 1745 and 1750. It has
three scenes; each depicts a couple (fig. 16). On the
left, a modestly dressed woman sitting on a small
hillock deploys an old-fashioned drop spindle while
receiving attentions from a man carrying a pack on
his back. In the center, a woman in a red dress sits
Rods for salmon and trout were wielded with two hands
and were 18 and 15 feet long, respectively. Shorter models ranging from 11 to 13 feet were one-handed and used for smaller fish.
A. J. Campbell, Classic and Antique Fly-Fishing Tackle: A Guide for
Collectors and Anglers (Guilford, CT: Lyons, 1997), 5.
on a similar small mound.61 She wields a fishing rod
successfully; she has caught a fish. The contrast between the baskets at the feet of the two women is
also telling; the spinner’s basket, partly covered,
holds spun yarn wound on nostepinnes, discretely
displaying the product of her old-fashioned, usually
indoor, labor, while the fishing lady’s uncovered
basket holds fish, proudly declaring her expertise
in this modern, outdoor activity. The man next to
her, wearing a blue frock coat, gestures with his
hat to the right, toward the third couple, although
she does not seem entirely interested in what he
is offering. This latter couple walks toward a house
on the far right of the picture; she carries a small
basket and takes his offered arm—although she
does so modestly, with an outstretched arm and a
good deal of space between them.62 Unlike the
men who produced images of women fishing in
prints and on decorative objects, women tended
to embed the image of the female angler in a sequence of depictions of couples.
The juxtaposition of these images harvested
from Anglo-American visual culture is not random;
reading from left to right in the Bourne embroidery, the sequence of three scenes provides a loose
narrative. It seems to be the familiar story of boy
meets girl, boy works to get girl’s favorable attention, boy gets girl. But if we take the point of view
of the young woman making this object, we see a
more complicated, nuanced story. Girl meets boy
The red dress marks her as an adult woman. See Leslie
Reinhardt, “Serious Daughters: Dolls, Dress, and Female Virtue
in the Eighteenth Century,” American Art 20, no. 2 (Summer
2006): 39.
For a brief discussion of this basket, see Laurel Thatcher
Ulrich, “A Chimneypiece,” in The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories
in the Creation of an American Myth (2001; repr., New York: Vintage
Books, 2002), 150.
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 14. Fishing lady embroidery, mid-eighteenth century. Silk and wool on linen; H. 33¼00 ,
W. 22¼00 (framed). (Historic Deerfield; photo, Penny Leveritt.)
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 15. Fishing lady embroidery, ca. 1760. Silk and wool on linen; H. 16⅝00 , W. 24¾00 . (Photo, Stephen and
Carol Huber, Old Saybrook, CT.)
Fig. 16. Eunice Bourne, embroidered fishing lady overmantel with original frame, Boston, 1745–50. Wool, silk,
metal-wrapped thread, glass beads on linen; H. 2413/1600 , W. 5013/1600 (framed). (Seth K. Sweetser Fund, Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston; photo © 2015.)
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
and displays her traditional qualifications for marriage (spinning); girl decides what to do with the
man-fish who has taken her “bait”; girl accepts
boy after he shows himself to be worthy of her.
Either way, we see respectable, gender-normative
genteel courtship. However, the insistent placement of the image of the spinner, the fishing lady,
and the happy couple—in that order—in most of
the embroideries that incorporate more than one
image asserts the woman’s pivotal, if brief, authority
in the courtship process. These images thus engage
the unstable power dynamic of the marriage market; Bourne’s embroidery centers on the moment
in the courtship process in which the woman actively exercises choice.63
Fishing was not just a way for young women to be
out in public in fashionable clothes so as to be seen
by potential suitors. Rather, fishing was a real activity that, as with other polite acquired skills evidencing her industry, virtue, and patience, contributed
to her status as a desirable candidate for marriage.
The more overt courtship motifs—the young shepherd and young man attending to the women on
either side of the fishing lady and her suitor—
register the end function of these excursions. The
fishing lady and her related shepherdesses and
spinning ladies turn up in embroideries when patriarchal norms for marriage had been giving way to
unions initially contracted by the particular couple.
The contrast between the two pole-like objects held
by the shepherdess and the lady angler, seen in the
Bourne embroidery, underscores this difference
between the old-fashioned spindle (long since replaced by the spinning wheel) and the modern fishing rod. The temporal gap between spindle and
rod, along with differences between the two transactions engaging the spinner and the fishing lady,
narratively moves women from the old form of
courtship as economic transaction to a new model
framed in terms of love.64 Under this pattern, women
participated more actively, if covertly, in the courtship process leading up to marriage.65 It is no wonder that social rituals surrounding the critical life
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich argues that “Eunice Bourne’s embroidery is meaningful precisely because it evades its own time
and place” (ibid., 144–45). While this evasion is one dimension
of its meaning, the motif of the fishing lady, I argue here, is deeply
engaged in its own time.
For the replacement of drop spindles with spinning wheels
in the late Middle Ages and an overview of spinning technology,
see Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Two Spinning Wheels in an Old Log
House,” in The Age of Homespun, 86–92.
Rozika Parker, The Subversive Stitch (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1989), 118; Barske, “Lover’s Instructor,” 28,
events of courtship and marriage appear in these
images produced by young women. Although
women’s power in courtship was limited and somewhat precarious, Bourne’s deployment of the fishing
lady does not depict this; rather, it underscores
female agency.
Bourne was not alone in organizing her work in
this way. A similar narrative sequence structures a
chimneypiece by an unknown woman (fig. 17).
Here, however, a scene of harvesting wheat—like
fishing, associated with fall—takes the place of the
spinner in Bourne’s work. The image of the fishing
woman and her polite companion again sit in the
center of the image. He gestures with his hat toward
the viewer’s right, where a couple—she with a basket, he with a bundle on a pole—stroll arm in arm
toward a house with a fenced garden. The center
and right sections of this embroidery obviously derive from the same source as Bourne’s, although
the two women have personalized the basic skeleton of the design, partly by reconfiguring the standard elements. For example, the details of the
buildings in the background differ, a windmill taking the place of the house on the left of Bourne’s
work; the locations of the staffage figures of the
hunter, hound dogs, and man with a pole are rearranged; and the embroidery by the unknown woman
includes more birds, flowers, and trees. If the sequence of images did not matter, we would expect
to see the fishing woman appear in any position
(left, center, right), but in these needleworks she remains the central figure. The narratives in these
fishing lady embroideries can be read as allegories
of young women’s lives; she acquires skills needed
for domestic life, makes her choice of partners,
and then moves on to that domestic, married future.
As we have seen, the images of women fishing
available for use as source material for these needleworks linked women and fishing to courtship. The
young women stitching these embroideries fashioned themselves as refined women suitable for
marriage by virtue of the high level of skill and discipline demonstrated in producing an embroidered
picture of this size and complexity. Likewise, the
conspicuous display of time devoted to completing
such a large project displayed her social status, and
that of her family, because only wealthy families
could afford the years of education that such an embroidery represented—it could cost three times as
much as sending a son to Yale or Harvard.66 These
Lynne Templeton Brickley, “Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy,” in Theodore Sizer, Nancy Sizer, Sally Schwager,
Lynne Templeton Brickey, and Glee Kruger, To Ornament Their
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
Fig. 17. Fishing lady embroidery, Boston, 1745–50. Wool, silk, glass beads on linen; H. 21¼ , W. 58 . (Gift of Miss
Frances Lowell Burnett, Historic New England; photo, Peter Harholdt.)
young women, then, at an age when marriage (or
lack thereof) was about to become a pressing issue,
spent weeks in painstaking labor over images that
both idealized and embodied the very process they
were about to undergo. Faced with a changing social landscape for courtship, one in which women
exercised a relatively new, if limited, power, these
women depicted with needle and thread a world
that put that power at its center. The fishing lady,
then, alludes to the potential exercise of female
choice in a high-stakes transaction.
Although these women customized their projects with different combinations and arrangements of figures and motifs, the fishing lady
occupies center stage. The fishing lady is a figure
of competence that emphasizes the moment of
women’s choice in courtship. She fishes, successfully
and therefore skillfully, without help. Although she
turns her head away from her activity to acknowledge her suitor’s presence, her body remains facing
the pond, with her back to him. His hat courteously
doffed, he has piqued her attention but not commanded it; she considers, but does not (yet) accept,
his invitation. Notably, although built structures appear in the background behind all three women in
the large embroideries, the tamed and captured
domestic garden appears, on the right, only once
the woman has given her consent to accompany
the man toward that particular future. The fishing
lady’s utility in these pastoral embroideries lay in its
explicit references to courtship coupled with its
visual emphasis on women’s agency.
Minds: Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, 1792–1833 (Litchfield, CT: Litchfield Historical Society, 1993), 35.
Variations in the figure groupings to the right of
the fishing lady imply variations in the outcome of
the narrative constructed by the sequence. One
such variant, at least partly derived from the same
source used by Bourne and the unknown maker
of figure 17, appears in the 1748 work of Sarah
Warren (fig. 18). Warren replaced the domestic
couple on the right with a couple picking pears,
associated—like fishing—with autumn. He stands
in the tree and places fruit in the basket she holds
up for him. Warren also includes a seated woman
with a basket of spun yarn and the man with a pole,
found in Bourne’s embroidery, on the left. These
needleworks construct a loose narrative of genteel
courtship from these stock images. Suggestively,
Warren’s final image is ambiguous; there is no
house with a fenced garden behind the pear-picking
couple, nor is the duck pond present below them.67
Instead, open countryside stretches behind them,
and at their feet a pair of hunters with a pack of
dogs give chase to a running stag. The upraised
whip of one of the hunters suggests the intensity
of the pursuit; Warren’s narrative of courtship thus
remains open-ended, prolonging the moment of
maximum female self-determination.68 Thus multiple outcomes to the narrative of courtship and marriage were possible, if only in the fantasies and
dreams of young women.
Cabot, “The Fishing Lady and the Boston Common,” 29,
identifies these figures as Phyllida and Corydon, subjects of a poem
by an anonymous author from the Elizabethan period. See Arthur
Symons, A Pageant of Elizabethan Poetry (London: Blackie & Sons,
1906), 262–64.
Warren would not marry for another seven years.
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
Fig. 18. Sarah Warren, fishing lady embroidery, Barnstable, MA, 1748. Silk and wool on linen; H. 20½00 , W. 45¾00
(framed). (Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur; photo, Jim Schneck.)
A final example (fig. 19) goes even further than
Warren’s. This unknown woman deviated from the
compositional formula of the other fishing lady
pictures by placing her fishing lady on the far left,
at the opening of the narrative. The center image
depicts a group of men and women dancing—a potent metaphor for social transactions—she dances
with two men while a third plays a tambourine.
Although this is an old, conventional element of
pastoral imagery, it also calls to mind the conversational “dancing” women did in parlors, gardens,
and at actual dances as they negotiated the complex maneuvers of courtship in the presence of potential suitors. In the far right we see a woman
Fig. 19. Fishing lady embroidery, 1740–60. Silk, wool, metallic thread on linen; H. 2100 , W. 4200 (framed). (Bequest of
Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur; photo, Jim Schneck.)
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Winterthur Portfolio 49:1
carrying a long garland draped across the upper
part of her body; perhaps she is a figure of spring.
A man with a basket on his head and another on his
arm walks near, but not next to, her. His position, a
bit behind her and separated from her visually by a
flowering bush, along with his gaze at her and her
seeming obliviousness to his presence, indicate that
he is not her companion. She remains an independent figure moving through the landscape by her
own volition. Reading from left to right, the vista
widens, as does the woman’s sphere of action.
The stock hunting scenes and ancillary male figures
found in the foreground of the other fishing lady
embroideries are missing; instead, we find small
dogs romping beneath the dancing couples and a
pair of peaceful sheep in front of the garlanded
woman and the basket-toting man. Here marriage
does not seem to be the end goal of these activities
in nature; rather, this woman has produced a picture in which women chose to enjoy nature—and
perhaps life—on an equal footing with, and maybe
even independently of, men.
By the 1780s, anxiety about the exercise of power
by women in the courtship process surfaced in
prints with a satirical edge, such as publisher Robert
Sayer and John Bennett’s The Angelic Angler, depicting an elaborately dressed woman angler.69 The
caption comes from a poem by early eighteenthcentury poet William Pattison that cautions women
about flirtation.70 The poem and its currency some
sixty years after its first publication testifies to the
persistence of the metaphor of courtship as fishing.
The caption reads, “At once Victorious with your
hands and eyes / You make the fishes and the
Men your prize. / And while pleasing slavery we
Court / I fear you Captivate us both for Sport.”71
The angler fishes alone, heedless of the presence
of the gentleman positioned a few yards away, behind her. Presumably he is her next victim, as he
is visually positioned between the two lengths of
her fishing line as she draws in her fish. The caption
explicitly speaks to fears that women would attract
Published in London by Sayer & Bennett, 1781. There are
at least three known states of this print. British Museum Online,
reg. no. 2010,7091.808.
Pattison lifted and slightly altered the first two lines from an
earlier poem, “On St. James’s Park,” by Edmund Waller, published
in 1661. The original lines read “At once victorious with their
lines and eyes, They [ladies fishing] make the fishes and the
men their prize.” Edmund Waller, A Poem on St. James’ Park as
Lately Improved by His Majesty (London: Gabriel Bedel and Thomas
Collins, 1661), 5.
A print published by Carrington Bowles with a similar subject has a caption reading “To be decoy’d is Men and Fishes [sic]
fate, with Cupid’s line when Beauty is the Bait” (London, April 12,
1780), British Museum Collection Online, reg. no. 1874,0613.2666.
men, ensnaring them in nets of their own desire,
merely for the pleasure that the exercise of such
power brings. Once women began to play a significant part in the decision to conclude a courtship
with marriage, men had to take the bait, so to speak;
they needed women’s cooperation in order to advance to full, married manhood. The image of the
woman angler, in images made by women, resonated with the promise of autonomy, however brief;
in images made by men that potential was a threat.
Angling, which created a social space in which
women and men could engage in an activity side
by side, functioned as a metaphor for that very brief
period in a woman’s life wherein she might enjoy
something approaching the upper hand in a key
life transaction. The images of women fishing available for use as source material for these needleworks
offered a wide range of relationships between
women and fishing, from single expert angler to
mere onlooker of male activity. These depicted
women fishing alone or in the company of others;
yet, the fishing lady embroideries (with one exception) always deploy the same figure. This could be
explained by the origin of this motif in a single
source, but that does not explain why this particular
image to represent angling, and not another—for
example, of a couple fishing—was compelling enough to be used, and used exclusively. The embroidered images of women fishing always show her as a
successful solo angler; she never has help, and she
also never merely watches others fish. The embroideries declare women, not men, to be the expert
anglers, emphasizing their proficiency and independence. The narratives constructed by the fishing lady chimneypieces read both as normative
images of courtship and as celebrations of female
participation and power—however fleeting—in
that ritual process. The fishing lady pictures, then,
subtly resist the patriarchal order that, on many
fronts, hemmed in these women.
In light of the above discussions, Sarah
Colesworthy’s embroidered fishing lady (see fig. 1),
introduced at the beginning of this essay, no longer
appears to be merely a lady’s accomplishment but
rather an object that resonated deeply with several
areas of colonial life.72 The embroidered fishing
lady participated in a transatlantic discourse—
Colesworthy, the daughter of a Boston caulker, seems to
have found herself both too successful and unsuccessful in her “angling for a heart.” Some eight years after she stitched this confident
image, she bore a child out of wedlock; she never married. Nantucket
Historical Association, “An Island in Time: An Overview of the NHA’s
Collections with Accompanying Timeline.” Originally published in
Historic Nantucket 49, no. 1 (Winter 2000): 12–38. http://www.nha
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The Politics of Courtship in the Boston “Fishing Lady” Pictures
textual, visual, and material—around angling both
as actual fishing practice and as a loaded metaphor
for courtship. Angling, while contributing to class
distinctions, provided occasions for courtship behaviors and gave women access to the outdoors
and an opportunity to interact with nature from a
position of mastery.73 Some of these outings had
more at stake than mere recreation—these mixedcompany events provided occasions for men and
women to mingle socially, with marriage as a goal.
The differential social power between men and
women shaped these outings, just as it shaped many
aspects of colonial life.
Representations of fishing made by men embodied the widespread metaphor that cast women
as anglers and men as fish, vulnerable to the bait
of beauty. These images typically represented
women’s angling expertise as limited by depicting
the female figure as allegorical or as dependent
on male assistance in fishing or by the use of captions cautioning women about flirtation. Yet a current of anxiety ran under these images, anxiety
made explicit in The Angelic Angler. These represen73
McMurray, “‘A Recreation Which Many Ladies Delight In’:
Establishing a Tradition of Fisherwomen,” 143.
tations addressed the uncertainty real men experienced during courtship, particularly once they had
declared themselves—in other words, they had
been hooked. The image of the woman angler
and her suitor thus neatly captured the real social
and material practices of fishing and courtship.
The fishing lady embroideries, however, emphasize the woman’s potential agency by underscoring
her expertise at angling and, by extension, her
management and partial control of courtship transactions. Hanging in the family parlor, they presided over courtship rituals or, if the embroidery
went with the woman after marriage, as did Sarah
Warren’s, perhaps functioned as a nostalgic reminder of her moment of agency. When an embroidered picture stayed behind in her father’s house,
it was visually available to a woman’s younger sisters,
silently suggesting that they too were modern
women with some influence over their own future.
More than just a fashionable fad, the embroidered
pictures of fishing ladies register real material practices and changing courtship norms in women’s
lives. Into scenes that look conventional in both
content and form, in an era which gave women few
civil or human rights, women embedded a figure
of female agency, however fleeting.
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Chapter 10
Intellectual History
First, click on the link below and watch the
following short video, “Maya Lin: New York”:

Pair 1: Maya Lin and Barbara Kruger
Maya Lin
I. As a college student, Maya Lin entered and won the
competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to be
installed near prominent national monuments in Washington,
D.C. Like Richard Serra, Maya Lin is a practitioner of
Minimalism, and the concept of her design was misunderstood
by some. She eventually described in an interview what she had
“I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth. I imagine taking
a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up and the initial
violence and pain that in time would heal. . . .”
”The need for the names to be on the memorial would become
the memorial,” she continued.
“There was no need to embellish the design further. The people
and their names would allow everyone to respond and remember.
It would be an interface between our world and the quieter,
darker, more peaceful world beyond.”
The difference between a monument and a memorial may be
characterized as the following: a monument is a work of
architecture or sculpture which honors someone or an event. A
memorial is a designated place or structure which aids people in
Maya Lin
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Washington, D.C.
Dedicated in 1982
Black granite
II. Exploring Maya Lin’s work from the standpoint of her ideas
is a method of interpretation we can identify as intellectual
history, which asks, “How do ideas shape the production and
meaning of works of art?” While all works of art in one way or
another are shaped by ideas, intellectual history engages viewers
in the act of identifying evidenc…

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