Reticule (1)

Lines, Samuel

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This bag with its associated pamphlets is one of two in the Museum collection that were produced by the Female Society for Birmingham as part of their campaign for the abolition of slavery. The Society was founded in 1825 (originally called the Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves) in West Bromwich, near Birmingham. The bags were made by women at sewing circles where objects decorated with abolitionist emblems were produced to decorate their homes and for distribution as part of their campaigning activities.

The image of the black slave woman nursing her child printed on the front of this bag was one of a series commissioned specifically by the Society for distribution in albums of prints and on their propaganda merchandise. This particular image appeared on other abolitionist objects, including transfer-printed plates. The workbags were presented to King George IV, Princess Victoria and other aristocrats and wives of prominent politicians, as well as to other women's anti-slavery societies. The significance of this image of a nursing mother is that it countered the common stereotype of the time of black women as licentious and lustful. These images were very successful in encouraging an emotional engagement with the plight of slave women, but in the long term passive stereotypes such as these were very detrimental in the struggle against racism.

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  • Title: Reticule (1)
  • Creator: Lines, Samuel
  • Date Created: 1822/1831
  • Location: Birmingham
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 23.5 cm, Width: 20 cm
  • Provenance: Given by Miss E. F. Howard
  • Medium: Silk, printed in black, with steel frame and chain

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