Martha Ann Ricks, a former slave and Queen Victoria

donna

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Martha Ann Eskine was born a slave in Tennessee. The year is not known. In 1830 her father purchased the entire family and they moved to Liberia. Mrs Ricks first married Zion Harris. In 1848 they traveled to the United States and England. After Zion died she married Henry Ricks. In Liberia she raised turkeys, ducks and sheep . The family prospered. She was a great admirer of Queen Victoria. For 25 years she worked on an intricate cotton silk quilt depicting a Liberian coffee tree in bloom that she hoped to present to Queen Victoria. The quilt design had over three hundred pointed green leaves with bright red coffee berries, all hand appliqued onto a white background with a center trunk. Everyone laughed at her for thinking she could meet the Queen and give her this quilt.

By the 1890s Liberia believed they had succeeded in proving their abilities as thrifty, enterprising people of Western civilization and American culture. In 1892, the elderly Martha Erskine Ricks embarked to England. She was determined to meet the Queen and give her this quilt. Through the aid of the Liberian ambassador, Edward Blyden, Martha Ricks was granted an audience with Queen Victoria. Martha presented the quilt to the Queen at Windsor Castle. It was a personal triumph for this elderly black woman who had been born a slave in Tennessee.

There is a great children's book on Martha Ricks. It is "Martha Ann's's Quilt for Queen Victoria" by Kyra E. Hicks.

I know this is not a Civil War story but does speak of the times of slavery and folks going to Liberia for freedom. It shows how a humble black woman succeeded and was able to meet a Queen.
 

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donna

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Glad you all enjoyed it. My cousin makes quilts so I try to find all kinds of history for her. The thread which was on the impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin led me to look into Queen Victoria and then to this quilt story. I love reading about the people of the times, but not just the famous but the ordinary person . People are what history is all about.
 
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Donna, you are most welcome! I love photographs and I really wondered what both Martha and her quilt looked like. If I can I'll try and find a color photo of the quilt. :smile:
 

donna

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I have tried to find the children's book. As of yet not at our library or store. They do have on Amazon.

The quilt was placed on display at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The author of the children's book I mentioned before is still trying find out what happened to the quilt. She even wrote Queen Elizabeth II and asked if they had it. As of yet no answer as to where it went.

It is too bad it is missing. It was a beautiful quilt with quite a history.
 

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