Christina Henri’s Convict Bonnets

After Louisa’s Walk is ended and we have come out of character, we show images of the Rajah Quilt and give out free Louisa’s Walk post cards or bookmarks.  We also offer a one page pattern with all you need to know about making one of Christina Henri’s convict bonnets.

Christina is the Artist-in-Residence at the Cascades Female Factory.  She also writes a weekly column for our local newspaper, The Mercury telling the tale of a  different convict women each week.  A few years ago she started a major project called Roses From The Heart(R).

Prior to Roses from the Heart(R) Christina conceived Departures and Arrivals(R) ….   this art installation symbolises the babies born to convict women at the Cascades Female Factory who died in their infancy.  She displayed 900 christening bonnets in the shape of a cross. The work was initially displayed in Yard One at the Cascades Female Factory. The work has travelled extensively.

Roses From the Heart(R) is an even more ambitious project: to make twenty five thousand five hundred and sixty six adult bonnets.  This represents the number of women who were sent out to the Colonies, many thousands of whom came through the Cascades Female Factory.  When Christina has this number donated to the project she will mount installations in various parts of Australia and, ultimately, will take the bonnets back to the United Kingdom.  She is calling this part of the project Bringing the Girls Back Home.

 Christina mounts exhibitions throughout Australia, England, Ireland and Jersey.
In 2010 8,000 bonnet tributes were displayed in Birmingham. They will remain there and be joined by all of the bonnets by 2013 to be part of Bringing the Girls Back Home. There will be a major Blessing of the Bonnets in London in 2013.
Christina plans to travel Roses from the Heart(R) to Canada, USA and New Zealand and to hold an event in France and possibly exhibit the bonnets in Germany. The bonnets will then return to Australia to become a permanent public Memorial installation.

Our Louisa’s Walk visitors are doing their bit and many have taken a pattern promising to send the finished article to Christina.  As our visitors come from all over the world, I imagine Christina is receiving some very interesting postage stamps!  When I contacted her a few days ago she had only five thousand bonnets to go and says that bonnets arrive every day.

Last summer a Louisa’s Walk visitor who also happens to be a friend of Christina decided to make Louisa a bonnet so that I could show visitors a finished product.  It is a beautifully sewn item but, the bonnets don’t have to be a work of fine needlecraft.  Two years ago Christina held an exhibition of the some, fifteen thousand she had received to date, in the Mawson Pavilion down on the wharf in Hobart.  Many of the bonnets were like mine, delicate and lacy but others had been produced by school children, indeed many teachers take a pattern intending to encourage their classes to make bonnets.  Why not have a go?  For more information, visit Christina’s site at and play your part in this visionary and evocative project.

The photograph below shows my bonnet being modelled by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle Models a Convict Bonnet

Gabrielle Wears a Convict Bonnet

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