The Identity of an Embroidering Woman: The Needle Arts in Brussels, Belgium, 1850–1914

Wendy Wiertz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


During the nineteenth century, the countless images showing handworking girls and women contributed to the stereotype of femininity: they should be still, loyal to their families, and confined to the home. This visual stereotype is questioned here by investigating if and how needlework fostered new identities among girls and women of the upper and middle classes in Brussels during the period 1850–1914. First, Belgian women’s education in the needle arts is studied to understand what goals were envisioned. Then, the life and career of Belgium’s most well-known embroideress, Hélène De Rudder, born Du Ménil (1869–1962), is examined as she transitioned from craftswoman to artist. Finally, her situation is compared to the way other needlewomen employed the needle arts in their lives. Overall this chapter questions whether the needle arts stretched the boundaries of prescribed women’s femininity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStitching the Self
Subtitle of host publicationIdentity and the Needle Arts
EditorsJohanna Amos, Lisa Binkley
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781350070394, 9781350070400, 9781350070417
ISBN (Print)9781350242418, 9781350070387
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

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