Stitched With Love
Convict Bonnets dedicated to our pioneering ancestors
Proudly presented by
The Fellowship of First Fleeters
Southern Highlands Chapter
in conjunction, with the
BERRIMA DISTRICT MUSEUM
The exhibition runs from April 19th to May 21st
the museum is located at the corner of Market & Bryan Streets, Berrima, NSW
For more information about the museum click here
The exhibition was opened by The Berrima District Historical and Family History Society Archivist, Author and Local Historian Ms. Linda Emery at a ceremony attended by about thirty invited guests on the evening of April 19th. Guests included the ladies who created the bonnets, members of the FFFSHC and BDH&FHS committees and friends.
The exhibition includes 28 bonnets dedicated to convict women, the majority of whom arrived on the First or Second Fleets but includes women who arrived later. The convicts are the ancestors of people living in the Southern Highlands of N.S.W. or have a connection to local residents.
The opening was reported in the Southern Highland News by Claire Fenwicke.
‘The idea was started by The Fellowship of First Fleeters Southern Highlands Chapter members. Secretary Wendy Selman said they had been sewing the bonnets since November, 2016.
“We based the designs from an 1860’s servants pattern, which was used in the female factories,” she said. “We were inspired by Dr. Christina Henri’s Roses From The Heart project, where she collected more than 25,000 bonnets, representing each female convict.”
First Fleeters members and The Friday Girls sewing group contributed to the display.
Ms. Selman said they wanted to bring to light female convicts, whose stories often faded into history.
“They were women without a voices, and it’s very difficult to find public information about these women,” she said. “There’s the conception that they were all prostitutes and criminals, but they weren’t, they were more than that.”
Ms. Selman said while the bonnets were not easy to make, they were worth the difficulty. “Some of us have not sewn for a long time, so while some may not be bonnets of skill, they are bonnets of love,” she said.
Highlands author Linda Emery officially opened the exhibition, and spoke about the history of female convicts.
“Some of the women were drunks, but some were good with business, some were prostitutes and some were homemakers,” she said. “Some purposefully committed crimes, especially the Irish, to come out to Australia or meet up with their husbands.”
Few letters, images, photographs, domestic items, artifacts and related-material from these women have survived.
“Their contributions have largely been ignored, yet they are the ‘mothers of the modern nation’ – women with grit who survived the dire conditions of late 18th and early 19th century colonial Australia,” Ms. Selman said.’
The bonnets were created by:
Members of the Fellowship of First Fleeters Southern Highlands Chapter: Helen Anderson, Pamela Cormick, Rosemary Kirkby, Gwen Herbert, Rob Herbert, Patricia Robinson, Carole Schillert, Trish Scott-Wandmaker, Wendy Selman, Wendy Selman/Maureen Lee, and Margaret Smith.
Members of the Friday Girls Sewing Group: Ronda Brew, Maureen Freer, Helga Glajar, Gwen Herbert, Kay Lawson, Trish Maddock, Catherine Mah.
Members of the Berrima District Historical & Family History Society: Gwen Herbert, Rob Herbert, Denise Mackey.
Display setup: Lyn Hall.
Television presentation: Wendy Selman/Harlon Hall.