Not many local girls learn hand sewing now, but in 1890’s Peace Dale, was it ever popular!
A Peace Dale Sewing School was established for girls in 1890. Staffed by 6 teachers, the School had 105 students its first year, some as young as five years old. Children made samplers and were taught to do overhand and felled seams and hemming. 89 students displayed their work at the school’s first exhibition in October, 1890.
In September, 1891, the School’s display took place as part of the huge annual Washington County Agricultural Society Fair. Students aged 7 to 13 exhibited samplers of hemming, gathering, embroidery, darning, and buttonholes.
Narragansett Times accounts of the Sewing School also report on a school-sponsored penny savings program. Students were encouraged to bring pennies to place on deposit with the School Treasurer. When a child’s deposits totaled $1.00, an account at the Wakefield Savings Bank would be opened. 31 children deposited money and 6 girls opened accounts the first year. A year later, 125 children were enrolled and 34 had opened accounts. A year after that, it was 47 accounts.
The Sewing School opened in the Stepping Stone house, but moved to Hazard Memorial Hall (now Peace Dale Library). The building description in the Narragansett Times of October 9, 1891, included the following: “There are two rooms upstairs 27 feet 9 inches by 16 feet each, to be used as class rooms, the one facing north is for a cooking class; the one facing south is for the sewing school.”
After 1892 the Narragansett Times index lists no further reports, and we are not sure how long the Peace Dale Sewing School remained in existence.
Sources: Narragansett Times of October 17, 1890, July 3, 1891, September 18, 1891, October 9, 1891, and July 15, 1892. The later stories contain more on the savings program than the sewing activities.