Transportation was an extremely harsh punishment of the 1700s and 1800s, second only to execution. Between 1787 and 1852 as many as 25,000 women were transported from Britain to Australia to work in penal colonies, for crimes as varied as petty theft and poaching, to murder. Their sentences were often miscarriages of justice. Many didn’t survive the long journey. Most of them never returned. This remarkable quilt was made by women transported to Tasmania in 1841.
Quilting has a long history in North America, dating back to the early colonial settlers of the 1600s and bringing together different ethnic and cultural traditions. As well as their practical use for warmth, they were made – often communally – to mark important family occasions such as weddings and births. As quilt-making developed from a practical necessity into skilled folk artistry, different patterns and symbols emerged carrying different meanings. This classic ‘orange peel’ design is said to have been influenced by Lafayette.