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Martha Ricks

(1816-1901)

Sitter in 1 portrait
Born into slavery in eastern Tennessee, she was bought out of slavery by her father a freed slave. In 1830 she and her family emigrated to Liberia as part of the American Colonisation Society's work which supported the migration of free African Americans to the continent of Africa. Ricks earned a living as a crop grower and farmed turkeys but she also harboured a lifelong ambition to meet Queen Victoria. On 11 July 1892, aged 76, she arrived in Liverpool aboard the Calabar from Monrovia with a hand appliquéd quilt that she intended to present to the Queen as a gift. The quilt, which took her 25 years to complete, was made from silk and cotton. Its striking design featured the Liberian Coffee Tree with over 300 green leaves, as well as coffee berries in red. Through a series of chance encounters beginning with shipping magnate Alfred Jones who used his many contacts to help the Liberian visitor, she travelled to London. Word spread of her arrival, the British press took an interest in the story of the lady who travelled 3,5000 miles to meet the Queen, The London Standard printed an interview with her. Five days after her arrival she was granted a Royal audience with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. During her one month stay in Britain she was invited to lunch with the Lord Mayor of London at Mansion House, attended a meeting at the Salvation Army where she met William Booth and attended a garden party at Alfred Jones's residence where she was welcomed to stay the weekend before her departure on 6 August 1892. Her visit made her popular, she was presented with numerous gifts and received an honourable send off at the dockside by a substantial crowd of well wishers.

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Martha Ricks, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x38887

Martha Ricks

by Elliott & Fry
albumen cabinet card, 18 July 1892
NPG x38887

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