Rebellion Remnant Relic
Female histories are told in fragments, remnants of dresses and fabrics, stories half told, and passed down in the quiet times, probably when the men aren’t around. To imagine who my great great grandmother Anastasia Withers was, and what her life might have been, I was lucky enough have to two pieces of information- a photograph of her at age fifty-five and the record of the indent sheet when she was transported to Tasmania, a convict, at age 19.
Her hands look strong in the photograph. She made that dress with all its detail, the three tiers of intermittent pleats of seven on the skirt, the three buttons and tabs on the sleeves, the detailing of lace, pleats and folds. Anastasia was a dressmaker when she was transported, and must have sewn all her life. Ghost Dress and Lace captures the fragility of memories, the remnants of fabric left behind, the shape of the dress apparent even though its wearer has long gone.
Rebellion Remnant Relic celebrates the private and public events around the Eureka Stockade from a woman’s experience. With a silhouetted image and handwriting sewn in the work, there is a woman-life context is reflected in the work. Chain stitch and running stitch, visible knots and loose threads, these stitches imply work done quickly, as the Eureka flag was. The stitches themselves are covert imagery, addressing the work to an audience of intimates, this time women, rather like the Quaker quilts during the American civil war.
When women don’t have access to the written word, or public voices, their stories are wisps and glimpses, ghosts and remnants. The men who survived Eureka began to shape how history was told and what is on the public record. I wonder what Anastasia Withers, Anastasia Hayes and Anne Duke told their daughters, in whispers when the others were asleep?