Founding Mothers

Hannah Harrison Ludwell Lee was a mother to eleven children, only eight would survive to adulthood, two of whom, Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee, signed the Declaration of Independence.

Women’s lives in the eighteenth century were usually centered on their families. Some became responsible for the sewing that kept their families clothed.  Hannah, however, could provide wealth and position for her family.  She was determined, talented, and devoted.

According to a Lee family account, Hannah embroidered this delightful “housewife” (a.k.a. sewing kit) seen below.   A variety of dainty blue and pink flowers, strawberries, and silver sequins dance across the outer envelope while the interior folds out to reveal another pocket and a pin cushion.

Typically, a housewife contained needles, thread and matching buttons.  Women used them at home, but a lady often carried a housewife in her pocket for wardrobe malfunctions.   It was much easier to mend tears with the proper tools at hand, and it prolonged the life of her attire.

Caption: Silk and metallic thread, 18th century, Gift of Cornelia Lee Post Niver [1981.052]

Hannah Ludwell Lee could be considered a founding mother for Stratford Hall, but it was Anna Jarvis who first celebrated and publicly honored her mother in Grafton, West Virginia.  She campaigned over six years to brand Mother’s Day as a national holiday.  In 1914 Woodrow Wilson finally declared it as such, making 2014 the 100thanniversary!Mother’s Day to Anna Jarvis meant honoring maternal bonds that positively influenced humanity.  Personally, my mother encouraged me to follow my career aspirations.  I did not sign the Declaration of Independence, but I am fortunate to work at Stratford Hall.   It was my mom who embedded that love of culture and from her that I credit my appreciation of antiques.  Now I can preserve objects such as Hannah Lee’s sewing kit, and help document history for society.

-Karen Louvar, Collections Manager