Object of the Month – August 2011

This incredible object is over 200 years old. It is a picture made from small pieces of paper cut into floral patterns, a shield and letters. These have been arranged on a satin background and the whole has been framed. The caption at the bottom of the picture reads ‘this was done by Jane Hawtin, born without hands at Coventry…1769 – May 3 1780’.

It seems almost impossible to me that someone born without hands was able to produce this picture.

The writing on the picture is slightly damaged and it is not clear if Jane was 11 when she completed the work, or if it took her 11 years to make the picture. At this time young girls often made a needlework sampler as proof of their embroidery skills. You can see several on display at the Herbert. It could be that this careful work was Jane’s equivalent of a needlework sampler.

Unfortunately we don’t know anything else about Jane Hawtin or what happened to her, but this object shows she had patience and tenacity.



Posted on 01/08/2011, in Object of the Month and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Helen Renton

    I went and saw the Dwarf Man that is at Norwich by the name James Harris
    from Coventry. He is exactly three feet high, very well proportioned in
    every respect. But with him, was a girl which exceeded everything I ever saw. She had no hands or arms, and yet wonderfully clever with her feet. She cut out a watch paper for me whilst I was there with her toes. She opened my watch and put it in after done. Her name was Jane Hawtin, about 22 years old. She talks very sensible and appears very happy in her situation. She uses her toes as well as any their fingers. I gave her for cutting the watch paper one shilling. To the dwarf gave sixpence.
    Extract form the diary of James Woodforde, November 17th 1784

  2. That’s fascinating – thank you very much!

    I took a look at Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service’s online collections database (http://www.culturalmodes.norfolk.gov.uk/projects/nmaspub5.asp) and found the entry for James Woodforde’s Diary.
    Hope that’s the right one!

    It’s great to have another piece of information to go with this object.


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