The fact that many women worked as silversmiths from the late 17th to early 19th centuries in Britain and Ireland is not well known. One of the few trades considered acceptable for "gentlemen" of the time, silversmithing became the profession of women who managed their husbands' businesses, widows who inherited their trade, and unmarried women who began their careers as apprentices, "burnishing and polishing." The objects they went on to create are beautiful.
In 1987, the family and friends of Lorraine and Oliver R. Grace donated a splendid collection of silver marked by women to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Most of the silver in this collection - which has been augmented by a wealth of additional gifts - are George III and George IV pieces. Among the thirty-six women represented are Hester Bateman, "queen of English silver-smiths," Huguenot artists Louisa Courtauld and Elizabeth Godfrey, whose silver captured the elaborate elegance of French styling, and Rebecca Emes, a partner in the largest English silver manufacturing business of the early 19th century.
Nearly one hundred superb pieces - from goblets, salvers, tankards, and teapots to baby rattles and egg coddlers; from ornate centerpieces to marrow spoons - are presented here in full color, many for the first time. Philippa Glanville examines the history of the silver trade in England, and the role women played. Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough addresses the collection itself. Reproductions of hallmarks and trade cards, contemporary illustrations of workshops and silver objects in daily use, and a comprehensive list of the women known to have worked in the silver trade complete this intriguing artistic, sociological, and economic study.