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Cook map samplers: Women's endeavours

Vivian Caughley
Auckland War Memorial Museum
5 February 2016


Between 1770 and 1840 Double Hemisphere embroidered maps of the world were made by English and European-encultured women. To the women who made them they represented, for the most part, large, decorative, and cutting-edge works displaying their knowledge of the world and their place in it.

The undated sampler attributed to Elizabeth Cook, the widow of Captain James Cook, held in the Australian National Maritime Museum collection, records the cartographic achievements of her late husband’s monumental maritime career in a woman’s accomplished and well-recognised form of artistic expression.

By benchmarking this sampler against other extant similar map samplers, connections to the Cook voyages of discovery can be made. A sampler made in 1784 displays the first recorded handcrafted example of Cook-recorded Te Reo in the hand of an English-speaking woman. A sampler made in 1804 displays an embroidered kowhai flower "discovered by Joseph Banks", beside the stitched New Zealand.

With English women immediately assimilating their own newly-gained knowledge into their artistic endeavours, this paper shows evidence of small but profound expressions of women’s art that represent "new discoveries".

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