Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Roses from the Heart

Many people were moved by Christina Henri's Roses from the Heart project when they saw approximately 10 000 bonnets exhibited at Festival of Quilts and appreciated that each one represented a female convict transported to Van Diemen's Land.  Those with black ribbons were for the women and children who didn't survive the journey.
Christina has taken on a massive piece of conceptual art and will eventually have 25 566 bonnets permanently installed in Tasmania.  This transportation of convict women was a massive story in our history and by being part of this project we can be an important part of the memorial to them.  There's plenty more information on Christina's website and here she is with some of the bonnets at FoQ.
I have been allocated a convict to make a bonnet, she was Catherine Shields and I've been getting to know her this week as I've stitched her bonnet.  I've been away from internet access in deepest Norfolk for a week or so and it's been an opportunity to stitch and reflect which I've appreciated enormously.

Catherine Shields was born in Liverpool, England.  Her mother's name was also Catherine and she had a sister, Marianne.
Catherine was a 23 year old housemaid when she was tried in Liverpool Quarter Session on the 22 July 1850 and sentenced to 10 years for stealing £2. 0s. 10d  from a person unknown
She was 5 ft and 3/4 inches tall. 
She was a Roman Catholic who could both read and write. 
Catherine Shields was transported on the ship "Anna Maria", sailing from Gravesend, London on 7 October 1851. It was the second voyage for this ship carrying convict women . 
Catherine went to Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) arriving in Hobart on the 26 January 1852.

Catherine was single when she was transported and later married John Allen in Van Diemens Land.
Here is her bonnet.  
On one side is her name, on the other the date and the name of the ship in which she was transported.

I've been hoping while I sew that Catherine had a good life with John Allen and received this email from Robyn Murray from near Perth in Australia who I met at Festival of Quilts on the Roses from the Heart stand.

Further to your email and you wondering about Catherine. I am thinking maybe she had a better life. I see they allowed her to marry the same year the ship came out , so I suggest she must have been a model convict and done all the right things , so to speak. They had to apply to the Governor to marry and sometimes that was rejected. The Colony at the time thought marriage was good and saw it as a better form of rehabilitation than keeping the girls in the Female Factory. Also remember transportation for female convicts ceased in 1853, so Catherine was there at the finish. Male transportation didn't finish till 1863 I think.
If you go to the site of the Female Factory at www.femalefactory.com.au you can find more information. Also google her ship and the year 1852 and you will find out what conditions were like on her ship.

I found the ship surgeon's report on the internet, wonderfully insightful to read.  I was surprised (and pleased) that "only" four girls died on that voyage in the Anna Maria. 
I've been trying to find Catherine on the UK censuses before she was transported (1841 and 1851) but am going to have to look deeper - she's not obviously in Liverpool with her mother but there is a possibility that she's away at school...will research more.  
Since finishing Catherine's bonnet I have had an email from Christina who has allocated me another convict lass, the wonderfully appropriately-named Ann Elizabeth Harwood, I wonder if she is a relative of mine?  She was transported from London on the 22 May 1820 aboard the ship the Morley, arriving in Van Diemen's Land 29 August 1820.  I'll be trying to find out more and starting her bonnet later this week.
You can keep up with Christina Henri and this project on her blog.  She is currently in Ireland, returning the Irish lasses to their homeland.

Of course I couldn't resist trying Catherine's bonnet on:
There was a detailed article about the Roses from the Heart project in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine which can be downloaded here:  Patchwork & Quilting Magazine article (pdf file) 


  1. Hi Lis, fascinating project isn't it? I posted on my blog earlier in the year and I'm making one right now. I haven't got into researching as much as you. Catherine's story is very interesting. Here is my post about it: http://notjustnat.blogspot.com/2010/05/australasian-quilt-convention.html


  2. Lis, this is such an interseting project. I have been watching it's progress for a very long time, you put me to shame as you have sewn a bonnet. I feel quite inspired to "get my finger out"

  3. Very interesting post Lis, and you certainly have put your heart into it with your research. Robin and I visited the prison builings in Port Arthur, Tasmania, some time ago and were amazed at the sheer size of the buildings. They must have housed a huge number of convicts, sent to a strange counrty on the other side of the world. It was a very moving experience to be there.

  4. Knowing something about the person you were sewing must have made it much more meaningful. I can imagine it would become quite an obsession to find out as much information about her as you could.
    Teresa x

  5. That's real interesting, Lis. Maybe this Ann Elizabeth is really a relative?!
    I really would love to hear more about your search!
    Good luck! Hugs, Ria.

  6. Dear Liz,

    Thank you for the kind words and for your participation in Roses from the Heart(r).

    What a beautiful bonnet you have created for Catherine Shields.

    I thought that you and your readers might like to know that I have just reached 20,000 bonnets. You can keep up to date with my travels on http://rosesfromtheheart.tumblr.com/

    I am so excited with the response from people all around the world to this story of dislocation, grief and loss. How those convict women turned their lives around I do not know, but many of them lived exemplary lives, nurtured their families and were respected in their communities. For some they achieved great heights. Others died and were buried in Paupers Graves, some eked out their lives unhappily. The resiliance and fortitude of so many of the convict women though saw them prospering. They became Australia's colonial grandmothers. One in four Australains today trace their ancestry back to a convict heritage. One in thirty in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

  7. Catherine please do email me

  8. Hi there Lis.It is just wonderful that you have made such a lovely bonnet for Catherine Shields.I am sure if she were alive today she would be most grateful for the bonnet you have lovingly made in her memory.
    It was lovely to meet you at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. My husband Graham and I accompanied Christina on this part of "taking the girls back home tour". It was a very emotional and amazing experience.My Great Great Grandmother , Louisa Underwood was a convict from Bristol. She arrived in Van Diemens Land( now Tasmania)in 1844.I have made 12 bonnets to date and my Mother around 37. I have a great empathy for Louisa and often wonder what her life was like. I can only but imagine ... I do hope she found happiness and had a more settled life after she married my GG Grandfather, Joseph Lane( also a convict).
    It is great to think Christina now has 20,000 bonnets and only needs 5,566 more. So, if there is anyone out their who feels they would like to be involed in this history making memorial,please email Christina for the name of a convict girl who is yet to have a bonnet made.
    This bonnet memorial has connected men and women all over the world. So, thank you Christina ! You are one amazing lady.
    Now, it's back to the next 2 bonnets for 2 Irish convicts I am currently working on.......
    Robyn Murray


I really appreciate your lovely comments, ideas and opinions, they make my day. Thank you for visiting Piece'n'Peace,
hugs, Lis x