Abby Wright School, Liberty silk embroidery worked by 14 year old Maria Williston, South Hadley, MA 1806

Maria Williston
Abby Wright School
South Hadley, MA dated 1806


Wearing the latest empire fashion Liberty, holding a staff topped with a liberty cap, and an inverted cornucopia spilling fruit (symbols of freedom and prosperity that can be traced to Greek mythology) was stitched and painted by Maria Williston.   The abundant use of silver threads and the distinctive curvy trees are classic characteristics of needlework from Abby Wright’s school in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  The swaged floral vines with centered bows are prevalent in works from both her school and the Misses Pattens’ school in Hartford, Connecticut. 


Maria Williston (1793-1830) was second oldest of five children born to Rev. Peyson Williston, D.D. (1764-1856) born in West Haven, Connecticut, a 1783 Yale graduate and first minister of Easthampton, Massachusetts, and Sarah Birdseye (1763-1845).  Maria stitched her embroidery at age 14 in 1806, and in 1813 she married Benagah Theodore Brackett.  They had two daughters and Maria died while they were still teenagers.


Maria’s brothers were extremely involved in education.  John Payson Williston was a very active board member at Mount Holyoke and the Observatory is named after him.  He was also the inventor of Payson’s Indelible Ink.  Another brother, Samuel founded Williston Seminary in Easthampton and assisted with Amherst College.


Copy of the original wording on rear of original paper that fell apart in being cleaned and frame touched up in December 1947, “Maria Williston…Easthampton, Massachusetts Daughter of Rev. Payson Williston of Mass.  She was Sister of John Payson Williston—Faith of a Human (? Wording not altogether clear) Williston.  This was done while she was at school in 1807 or 1806.”


Silk, metallic thread, chenille, and watercolor on silk.


Illustrated in the exhibition and book With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery From the Connecticut River Valley by Carol and Stephen Huber

Dealer Stephen & Carol Huber
Date: 1806
Origin South Hadley, MA
Artist/Maker Maria Williston
Measurements 18” x 21 ¾” framed
Inventory View Dealer's Inventory
Price 6,500
Contact Stephen & Carol Huber, 860-304-9459 or

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