Ancestor honoured in artist Fiona Crawford's exhibition

Melbourne artist Fiona Crawford’s exhibition portraying women in the gold rush, focusing on her great-great-grandmother, will officially open in Ballarat this Sunday.

Anastasia Withers was one of the first women on the Victorian goldfields and one of the three women believed to have helped sew the Eureka flag.

“We had no idea about her until the 150th anniversary of Eureka about 10 years ago. All the books came out and we saw her name,” Ms Crawford said. 

“My grandfather was the youngest child and his mother died at birth, so we never had been told about her.”

In her research, Ms Crawford said she found out Anastasia was one of the first women at the Bendigo goldfields, before coming to Ballarat.

“The men trusted her to hold their gold for them under her petticoat in the fields,” Ms Crawford said.

One of her sculptures in the exhibition shows the metal hoop from under the skirt. She said although it was a personal story, her message 

was greater than that. 

“It’s not about me doing art about my great-great-grandmother like ancestory.com

“Her story is like so many women’s stories and it was an honour to use her as an example.

“It’s not just about me putting the work out there. Through this person’s story, I’m able to tap into something larger.” 

The work has previously been displayed by Ms Crawford in Port Melbourne, but she sees it fitting to bring it to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. 

The exhibition is on display until February 9, with the official opening on Sunday when Ms Crawford will give an artist’s talk. 

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