When 55-year-old Lorina Bulwer was placed in the Great Yarmouth Workhouse in 1893, she embroidered protests into long pieces of patchwork fabric, ranting in unpunctuated capitals:
THE CHATTER IS I MISS LORINA BULWER CAMBS WOMAN DROVE TO THRIGBY HALL NORFOLK E. BULWER MARRIED AN HEMAPHRODITE EUNICH I MISS LORINA BULWER WAS EXAMINED BY DR PINCHING OF WALTHAMSTOW ESSEX AND FOUND TO BE A PROPERLY SHAPED WOMAN …
Much of the invective is directed against E Bulwer and Queen Victoria, apparently trying to connect Bulwer’s family to prominent families of the time and possibly referring to sexual abuse in a scandal of 1859. But her reasons for making the samplers aren’t entirely understood.
Ruth Burwood, adult learning officer for Norwich Museums, told the Eastern Daily Press, “In very basic terms there isn’t anything like them in the world, they’re just absolutely extraordinary; the fact she was a woman in a lunatic ward in Great Yarmouth workhouse and was somehow able to produce these embroideries. Workhouse inmates did do sewing but this is almost like she’s been allowed to do this as therapy.”