Oblate Sisters of Providence

January 17, 2010

“…We believe our Oblate vocation calls and enables us to embrace all people equally with dignity and respect, free from any form of prejudice, discrimination or distrust…”–Credal Statements, Oblate Sisters of Providence

The Oblate Sisters of Providence (OSP) was officially founded on July 2, 1829 in Baltimore, Maryland. Women of African-American descent established the first successful Roman Catholic religious order for the primary purpose of teaching and caring for African-American children. Their school, St. Frances Academy which opened on June 13, 1828, is the oldest operating school for African-American children in the United States. It operates today as co-educational high school serving students in grades 9-12.

In its’ early days, the Academy emphasized the needlearts. According to an article written by Gloria Seaman Allen for the Magazine Antiques, students produced samplers and other items of handiwork to show their accomplishments. They received a thorough foundation in needle skills with classes offered in several levels of sewing, marking and embroidery. In addition to formal instruction, the students devoted the hour from 5:00-6:00 pm each day to study and needlework.

Fortunately the Oblates saved some of these needlework pieces. According to the OSP website, they have the largest collection of 19th century samplers worked by African-American schoolgirls housed in one place. One sampler, stitched by Mary Pets who attended the academy in 1831, is in chartpak form. Included in the chartpak is a stitching chart, stitch descriptions and diagrams and suggested linen and thread colors. Visit the OSP website to see pictures of this and several other samplers as well as buy the Pets chartpak. Go to http://www.oblatesisters.com and click the “samplers” tab on the left hand side of the page.

Note: Photograph of Mary Pets’ sampler courtesy of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

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