Hand stitched boots

Costume

Hand stitched boots

« Back to Collection

This tiny pair of hand stitched boots is one of the Museum’s most beautiful and yet saddest artefacts. They are beautifully made in satin and cotton with delicate embroidered flowers and decoration, and were sewn by a young woman in one of Cornwall’s ‘lunatic asylums’, as they were then known. Shown beside a one pence piece for scale, the boots are too small even for a baby and could have been made for a doll, just as therapy or to while away time. Although the asylums housed many patients who were there due to their mental state, they were frequently a destination for those who were deemed to be an embarrassment to the family or society, including unmarried pregnant women or women whose behaviour caused them to be diagnosed as ‘hysterics’. Hysteria at that time could cover many of the conditions now known to be hormonal and the asylum was a convenient place to ignore people who suffered from them.