Ellen Maria Odiorne (1812-1845) stitched this sampler, with its meandering border of grape vines, at the age of ten. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of poet-turned-wealthy-industrialist Thomas Odiorne (1769-1851). His 1792 poem, “The Progress of Refinement,” which explores man’s relationship with nature, is considered a precursor to the Romantic Movement. After apparently giving up his literary pursuits, he worked for a time in Boston as a dry-goods merchant and then as a banker. Thomas Odiorne eventually moved to Malden, where the house he built for his family still stands on 15 Cedar Street. He and his brothers established Malden Nail Factory, one of the first manufactories to patent and produce machine-made cut-nails.

Thomas Odiorne’s first wife was Mary Bartlett (1780-1807), with whom he had three children: Mary Ann (1801-1835), Thomas Gilman (b. 1804), and Henry Bartlett (1805-1860). After her death, he married Mary Hussey (1788-1875) in 1810. Ellen Maria was their second child. Their other children were Susan (1811-1846), George (1814-1892), Charles Frederic (1816-1877), Alfred (1819-1885), Francis (1821-1878), William Folger (1824-1904), and Frederic Hussey (1830-1893).

In 1843, Ellen Maria became the third wife of Nantucket blacksmith David Mitchell (1799-1875). Sadly, their marriage was short-lived. Ellen Maria died in 1845, at the age of 32, less than two months after giving birth. The child, Ellen Odiorne, did not long survive her mother. She died at the age of five months. David Mitchell married a fourth and final time several years later.

Jennifer N. Johnson holds a degree from the Parsons/Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. While pursuing her studies, she completed a two-year fellowship researching the Cooper Hewitt’s American sampler collection. She is currently a Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts department at Yale University Art Gallery.

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