Following the American Revolution, and in the spirit of Republican Motherhood, numerous academies of learning for girls and young women were established throughout the Northeast. It was the goal of such schools to create a strong sense of patriotic nationhood in a literate body of young women versed in history, geography, some mathematics, and tasteful ornamental arts, filtered through Christian values and ethical philanthropy. Many of the girls attending these schools had experienced the war as young children, or through firsthand accounts of family members.
Lucina Hudson was one of several girls from Oxford, Massachusetts, who attended Abby Wright’s (1774–1842) school in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and whose fathers had fought for freedom. The ornamental exercises practiced at the school were typical in choice of topics, from biblical chapters to historical scenes and mourning pieces. This is one of at least five examples of Liberty made under the guidance of Wright. It is interesting that the allegorical figure of Liberty is not represented as an unattainable ideal but as an accessible contemporary. This Liberty is a pretty young woman with her hair ringleted in a classical style, fashionably garbed à la grecque, and carrying a liberty pole topped by a Phrygian cap, a close-fitting hat that was worn in ancient Rome and symbolized liberty.
Stacy C. Hollander, “Liberty Needlework,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.