Anna Maria Garthwaite
Anna Maria was the daughter of a clergyman. She was born in Lincolnshire in 1690. Women from ‘well-bred’ families were not expected to work but to marry well and have children. Anna Maria had a talent as an artist and spent her time painting flowers. Her paintings were beautiful - petals, stems, winding creepers, sprigs of flowers and cascades of foliage. She asked an agent to show her work to the Huguenot Master Silk Weavers in Spitalfields.
Rather like JK Rowling who only wrote her initials when she sent her Harry Potter book to the publishers, Anne Maria used A.M. Garthwaite so that her designs would not be rejected just because she was a woman. In those days men dominated most of the trades and held most of the responsible positions. When her father died, with the small legacy he left her, she travelled to London with her sister and set up home in Princelet Street, Spitalfields. Here she created the most stunning designs for the Huguenot silk weavers to weave.
In those days court dresses were as much as two metres wide and took 16 yards (14.5 metres) of material. She set up her own business (very unusual for a woman in those days), attracted her own clients, created her own designs and became hugely successful – both in this country – and overseas. Very little is known about this remarkable woman. She died in 1763 leaving a vast collection of original fabric designs. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London hold over 800 of her works and many other famous museums around the world also display her work.