"Man for the field and woman for the hearth - man for the sword and for the needle she". This was the recipe to avoid chaos and confusion according to Tennyson - a strict segregation of jobs.
But while embroidery seems to us to have always been women's work, in the 15th century professional needle work was chiefly domain of men. Women's embroidery was done at home for pleasure, and only by the very upper echelons of society.
Dorothy Phelan is the curator of an exhibit at the Dorset County Museum tracing 5 centuries of needlework. She shows Jennifer Chevalier the kind of embroidery women were doing from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Dorothy Bromiley Phelan, The Point of the Needle: Five Centuries of Samplers and Embroideries, The Dovecote Press, ISBN: 1 874336 97 0, £6.95 Picture reproduced with the kind permission of the author