Female convicts remembered

 

Emily Gilligan of Deloraine models the bonnet embroidered for Louisa Wright

'Female convicts remembered

MAY 2015 | SHELLY PETERSEN

THIS MONTH, the Deloraine Art and Folk Museum is showcasing a collection of handmade bonnets commemorating 25,566 convict women who were sentenced to transportation to Australia  (1788 – 1853), including women who lived in the Meander Valley.

Curator, Vicky Pryer worked hard at attaining funding for the display, believing it “fitted nicely with the Tasmanian  Heritage theme for this month – conflict and compassion.”

Vicky is particularly excited about the ‘local women’ included in the exhibition, saying, “I am hoping that most of the bonnets we receive for the display will be women that lived in the Meander Valley.”

One such woman is Louisa Pointon (nee: Wright) who was 16 years of age when she was trialled in the Central Criminal Court in London on 13th June 1842, of larceny for stealing a watch.

Louisa was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and transported to Van Dieman’s Land on the Garland Grove. She arrived 110 days later and was assigned to Mr Barrett.

From 1843 – 1845, Louisa was reprimanded twice for insolence which resulted in four months of hard labour, and once for disobedience of orders, resulting in 14 days’ solitary confinement.

In 1845 she was ‘delivered of an illegitimate child’ for which she was granted a ticket of leave on the 20th May 1845.

She married convict Frederick Pointon.

They went on to have nine more children and settled in Deloraine. Upon her death Louisa was buried at the United Church of England Cemetery in Deloraine.

Louisa is one of the many woman represented and honoured by the display created by Tasmanian born artist, Dr Christina Henri.

The Roses from the Heart memorial is a compelling project in which Dr Henri hopes the bonnets will not only symbolise the individual characters they represent, but also connect the viewer with the human face of the individuals exiled for crimes generally driven by desperate poverty.

Dr Henri says, “I hope we, the community, can offer moments of reflection, taking time out from our busy lives to contemplate not only the female convict story, but to also scrutinise our own value systems, our levels of judgement and acceptance towards others.”

To date, more than 24,000 bonnets have been received, each crafted with a rose to symbolise the women being uprooted from their English/ Irish homeland, and a heart expressing sincere love from descendants and from the public, with empathy.

Embellished on each brim is the name of the convict woman, the ship she was transported on and the date of her arrival.

Bonnet patterns are available for anyone who would like to participate in this heart-warming project. Entry into the museum is free throughout May.

 Mike Moores