Today, needlepoint samplers that were done by students – many of them age 10 and under – at Mary Balch’s School can fetch over $100,000 at Sotheby’s auctions; they fill Pinterest pages and have had starring roles on PBS’ Antiques…

In 1861, five young ladies, attendees of a prominent Providence academy for girls, met together for an afternoon of sewing. Unlike many of their classmates, they were concerned with more than the latest fashions, juicy local gossip, and their future…