Thursday, 28 January 2010
While recently in the Lake District talking with Quaker friends, they told me the story of Elizabeth Fry giving thread, needles and fabric to women convicts who were bound for transportation. I had not heard the story before and so I was mesmerised as the tale of the Rajah Quilt unfolded. (Rajah was the name of the ship upon which they were transported.) The Rajah sailed with 179 female prisoners from Woolwich on 19th July 1841, bound for Van Dieman's Land, present day Tasmania. There is evidence that the women made other quilts for their own personal use with the materials given to them, but none so far have been discovered. The importance of this work is that it demonstrated the women recognised the benefits of Fruits of Industry and were willing to reform their ways. See the Australian Bonnets Project to learn more about the female transportees.
The quilt was presented upon arrival to Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Sir John Franklin, then Governor of Van Dieman's Land, and later to be lost in the Arctic in his search for a North West Passage. The Rajah quilt is larger than King Size measuring 325cm x 337cm and is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia Accession No: NGA 89.2285
The inscription reads: TO THE LADIES of the Convict ship committee. This quilt worked by the Convicts of the ship Rajah during their voyage to van Diemans Land is presented as a testimony to the gratitude with which they remember their exertions for their welfare while in England and during their passage and also as proof that they have not neglected the Ladies kind admonition of being industrious. June 1841. Thank you to Mary Jenkins for reminding me to say that this quilt will be exhibited in the forthcoming quilt exhibition at the V&A - it is the first time that this quilt has been out of Australia.
Posted by N E E D L E P R I N T at 18:00