Newbery, Jessie (1864-1948)

Jessie Newbery, 1864-1948. Jessie Newbery, 1864-1948.

Jessie Wylie Newbery (1864-1948) was born Jessie Wylie Rowat. She was a Scottish embroiderer and teacher, who studied and worked at the Glasgow School of Art. She was the daughter of William Rowat, a shawl manufacturer from Paisley and political activist, who supported women’s rights. In 1882 she went to Italy and developed a deep interest in textiles and decorative arts.

In 1889 she married Francis Henry Newbery (1855-1946), who was the headmaster of the School. In 1894 Francis Newbery established the Department of Embroidery at the School. Jessie Newbery was appointed as head of the department. The aim of the department was to teach embroidery in a modern manner and for use on modern garments. In particular, Jessie Newbery believed that form and structure were more important than superficial decoration.

Many of her items used simple, quick techniques (notably appliqué) to create the desired result. Jessie Newbery’s appliqué work include a stylised rose motif that became one of the symbols of the avantgarde Glasgow Style with Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). In addition, she often used the technique of needleweaving, which she had seen during her trip to Italy in 1882.

Newbery’s embroidery and garment designs, especially for girls, appeared in an influential German publication, Moderne Stickereien (1903-1909). In 1908 Jessie Newbery retired from the School on the grounds of ill-health. She continued embroidering until her death in 1948. One of Jessie Newbery’s more famous students was Ann Macbeth, who eventually took over the Department of Embroidery.

See also the TRC Needles entries on the Glasgow School of Embroidery and the Newbery cushion cover.


  • LIZ, Arthur (1993). 'Jessie Newbery (1864-1948),' in: Jude BURKHAUSER, Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880-1920. Edinburgh: Canongate Press, pp. 146–151.
  • MORRIS, Barbara (1962). Victorian Embroidery, London: Herbert Jenkins, pp. 147-158.

Digital sources:

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 22nd June 2016).


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