A convict woman who rose from Cascade female factory worker to a banker on the Ballarat goldfields has been memorialised in a gold thread bonnet for art project Roses From The Heart.
A bonnet for Eureka flag seamstress Anastasia Withers is alongside over 1,500 bonnets on exhibition at the Museum of Democracy at Eureka in a tribute to convict women.
Anastasia is reputed to be one of three women who sewed the original Eureka flag and was one of the first women on the goldfields.
She became a safe keeper for prospectors’ gold, which she secreted in sacks hanging from a belt beneath her skirts.
Anastasia’s bonnet, which will remain at M.A.D.E., was embroidered by Melbourne-based embroiderer Lesley Uren.
“Some times bonnets will come in and you’re just staggered,” artist and Roses From The Heart creator Christina Henri said.
“For me I look at the bonnet and I don’t want to put it down and then sometimes a bonnet will come in that is completely plain, it will just be the name on it, but you know who made the bonnet made it with reverence and empathy with the life of that woman.
“However I think the relevance of the gold work reflects her (Anastasia’s) story so beautifully, and that the work is so perfect that it is extremely special.”
Just 500 more bonnets are needed for there to be one for each of the 25,566 convict women.
There are records of 28 convict women coming to Ballarat but there would have been many more who changed their name to dodge the “convict stain”, M.A.D.E. curator Cash Brown said.
“I think it’s really significant to shine a light on aspects of Australian history that might not be very well known,” she said.
“The idea is for it to be immersive – you need to be able to get quite close to think about the sheer numbers and it’s a little hard to do that from behind barriers.”
Bonnet patterns are available at www.rosesfromtheheart.tumblr.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roses From The Heart is at M.A.D.E. until January 22.