"the stitch (as I am assured by ladies conversant with such mysteries) gives evidence of a now forgotten art, not to be recovered even by the process of picking out the threads"
Young Woman Sewing (1870)
Public DomainYoung Woman Sewing (1870) - Credit: Thomas Couture

In fact, though fashions in embroidery have shifted over the centuries, the actual stitches themselves have changed very little. Hawthorne’s intention here is to root Hester in a historic past whose complexities are inextricable from her individual experiences. He also highlights the specifically feminine nature of needlework: it is at once a signifier of the lesser, domestic sphere to which women were confined and, as the only type of art afforded to them, a powerful means of personal expression, as well as a means of securing an independent income.