Bonnets from the heart

A PROJECT that started in Tasmania to commemorate the lives of women who were transported to Australia as convicts is gaining momentum worldwide.

Roses from the Heart is a unique memorial to the 25,566 convict women transported to Australia from Britain and Ireland from 1788 to 1853.

It involves the sewing of special bonnets in honour of each of those women.

The driver behind the concept was Dr Christina Henri, the honorary artist-in-residence at the Cascade Female Factory Historic Site, 2003 to 2015.

Dr Henri said the Roses from the Heart memorial was connecting a global audience to the lives of transported women and their children using cloth bonnets as a powerful visual metaphor.

“So far, approximately 25,000 bonnets have been made worldwide, many contributed by descendants of the original transportees,” Dr Henri said.

“The aim is to have one for every woman sent to Australia.”

Nine of the handmade bonnets are currently on display in the foyer of the Hobart Town Hall, eight of which represent a woman who was transported to Australia.

“The ninth is a symbolic baby’s bonnet, in honour of the many children who were born to convict women under sentence,” Dr Henri said.

“The pattern for the baby’s bonnet was taken from a colonial christening bonnet, circa 1860, held at the Narryna Heritage Museum in Battery Point, Tasmania.

“The material used in the bonnet was from a shirt donated by renowned Tasmanian artist and Hobart businessman Luke Wagner.”

Dr Henri said among the bonnets at the Town Hall was a tribute to Mary Walker Bleeze, who was sent to Van Diemen’s Lane in 1831, following a conviction for stealing clothes.

“She travelled with her toddler son and 135 other female convicts from Port Downs aboard the America,” she said.

“Records suggest Mary went on to work as a house servant at Government House and continued to be employed there after obtaining her Certificate of Freedom in 1837.”

Hobart local Robyn Pryce-Jones, who was Mary’s great, great, great granddaughter, contributed the symbolic bonnet.

Dr Henri is working on completing further bonnets relating to female convicts who worked at Government House to be included in the collection at the Hobart Town Hall.

“I am keen to hear from anyone whose female convict ancestor was amongst the ‘assigned servants’ at Government House,” Dr Henri said.

“The Hobart Town Hall is sited on land once part of the colonial Government House property.”

Caption: From left, project contributor Robyn Pryce-Jones, Dr Christina Henri and City of Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds.

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