No longer forgotten: Artist showcases convict women in museum display

A Tasmanian artist who has devoted her career to bringing attention to the lives of convict women was among the guest speakers at the Family History Societies Conference.

The conference, held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was attended by about 320 people, and on Saturday morning Dr Christina Henri spoke at Orange Civic Theatre about her work.

Dr Henri has worked since 2003 to showcase the lives of the 25,566 women who were sentenced to transportation to Australia between 1788 and 1853.

On Saturday, she discussed her ongoing memorial project, Roses from the Heart, in which she uses a colonial bonnet in the style of the 1860s as symbolism of the women’s lives.

Dr Henri said she was inspired to start the project after visiting a female factory, where convict women were sent.

“I didn’t know anything about convict women or anything about female factories,” she said.

“These are the people who have been forgotten by history, these women they were swept under the carpet.

“They were a really important part of our national growth.

“It was in 2010, seven years after I started this project that I [learnt] I have three convict ancestors.

“One of my ancestors was sent over because she ran away from home and her father said she stole the clothes she ran away in.”

The bonnets are on display at the Orange Regional Museum until February and include the name of the woman, the ship of transport and the year of arrival is placed onto the brim. 

Among them are two bonnets featuring Caroline Clements and Constance Couronne, two women who were brought to Australia as convicts and are now buried at the Orange cemetery.

Constance’s bonnet was made by her descendant Julie Milne from the Orange Family History society.

Constance was a slave in the Mauritius who was transported to Australia when she was nine years old after being accused of trying to poison her mistress.

She said Constance married another convict and they settled at Euchareena. 

Dr Henri has almost 25,070 bonnets but is seeking participants to sew more to ensure every woman is represented.

Email Dr Henri at cjhenri@gmail.com, or visit the Christina Henri Roses from the Heart Facebook page.