Women tell their tales

A SHOWCASE of transported convict women in Tasmania’s colonial history will take over Glen Derwent this weekend, with the inaugural Festival of Bonnets running across Saturday and Sunday.

More than 12,500 women were transported to Van Diemen’s Land as convicts, yet their stories were seldom told, and Dr Christina Henri, who is organising the festival, has been raising awareness of their history for almost two decades.

“Because they were looked on with this look of morality, stigma and shame, there was always a moral condemnation of convict women, so families never talked about them, never told their stories,” Dr Henri said.

“I could not believe I didn’t know about their stories – 12,500 convict women came here – I just had no idea that these women contributed so much to the nation.”

“I started to find out about the history of convict women while studying at university, when I first started with the women’s bonnets in 2003, I thought maybe it’ll be ready in three years, but you can’t have an end date with this project.”

In a world-wide effort, Dr Henri has amassed about 25,000 bonnets to acknowledge the 25,566 convict women that were transported to Australia, each embroidered with a name and story of a convict, and the significance of the numbers doesn’t end there, with even the date of the event signifying a momentous action taken back in 1788.

The dates August 7 and 8 were chosen to signify the day Betty King died, a convict woman widely thought to be the first European women to set foot in Australia, who later settled in New Norfolk and was the last survivor of the first fleet of settlers to Australia.

“When convict women were given opportunity, with their resilience and their fortitude, they prospered.”

The Festival of Bonnets will have guest speakers, auctions of convict dolls, live bands and choirs, bonnet making and of course the parade of bonnets.

Children’s activities are also available, as well as tea, food and coffee at the Glen Derwent Tea Rooms. Tickets can still be purchased at http://www.trybooking. com/BRXGK .

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