Needlework in America

Mother Caroline expresses her dismay in meeting American children who had little or no interest in needlework. In this letter written in 1848, meet a woman trying to introduce a fine art into the hearts of undisciplined American children.

Letter of Mother Caroline Freiss, SSND on American Children
June 18, 1850
To Very Reverend and Esteemed Lord Court Chaplain
[Joseph Ferdinand Mueller]1


Below is an excerpt from Letter #10.

“We opened St. Peter’s School (Philadelphia) in September, 1848, with 146 girls but now have 235.

I am writing from my own personal experience when I say that any School Sister who can influence them must be a most efficient and practical teacher. Never before had I encountered so imperative and urgent a need to be most firm and determined to insist on school discipline.

The dear children are like young horses where one must always hold the reins. Their fiery and passionate – also, restless and fidgety – temperaments prevent all undisturbed or uninterrupted instructions. The subject must be changed frequently and only a lively and vivacious presentation attracts them. The teacher must show a warm, lively interest in her pupils; only in this way can she work effectively and win their hearts. Then, even if at times she must seem strict or be severe, they have become devoted to her. Of course, this is indeed the general rule but nowhere is it so imperatively necessary as here.

Often the exertion and the fatigue endured in class was (sic) lessened a bit by the delightful answers given by some girls who were so naïve, e.g. ‘What causes thunder?’ ‘Two clouds come together and then they crash.’...Once I told the children that mercury was so called because it went around the sun so fast. Shortly after that one of the girls called another one, Mercury, because she walked and talked so fast - no incorrect judgment.

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