Clonmel: July 16th, 1843
"My dear Wife, I have received your kind and welcome letter of the 20th of March which is the greatest happiness I have enjoted ever since the day I have parted my dearest Mary”
-- Excerpt from a letter from James Walsh to his wife wrongfully sentenced for stealing buttons
From 1788 to 1853, some 25,566 women were sentenced as convicts and transported to Australia from Great Britain. Dr. Christina Henri is a conceptual artist from Australia who pays homage to these women. Her installations raise awareness of this white slavery and seek to stimulate discussion and understanding.
“I hope, we, the community can offer moments of reflection, taking time out from our busy lives to contemplate not only the female convict story but to also scrutinize our own value systems, our levels of judgment, tolerance and acceptance towards others.” - Dr. Christina Henri
Through “Roses from the Heart,” Dr. Henri explores the grief of these women with community in an organic fashion that includes donations of bonnets, bonnet making workshops and talks on the subject. She invites people to make and contribute these servant bonnets, each to personally recognise one of the woman transported.
“It would be the only wish of my heart, Dear Mary, to go to you even on my knees.”
Dr Henri aims to remove the "convict stain" from these women and raise awareness of their plight. So far over 23,000 bonnets have been received from around the world. “Roses from the Heart” has travelled Australia and overseas to England and Ireland. This year Dr. Henri was a finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year award for her work in exposing this tragic forgotten tale. These bonnets will eventually become a permanent memorial in Tasmania, Australia.
“If I lived for 100 years you would be as fresh in my heart, as the day you left me.”
Young Irish Women arrive in Australia 1878. (Source: National Library of Australia)
Dr. Henri was added to the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women in 2013 for Service to the Arts.
If you would like to make and send a bonnet you can download the pattern and authorization form here.
To support this work you can also download the DVD “Voices in the Dark”. For details see link above.
You can follow “Roses from the Heart” on Facebook.
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This is an exciting time as I head towards reaching the 25,566 bonnet target. I only require 1100 bonnet tributes to complete the collection. Then the hard work commences. Working through ideas on how to present this as the most state-of-the-art, unique, contemporary cultural tourism attraction for the global visitor to experience.
Thanks to the contributor who sent my story in to 'The Wild Geese'.
Dr Christina HENRI
Hiya! My mum sang I'll take you home Kathleen at a service in WA!! She's a beautiful singer. She sent me and email suggesting I write about it - "It was a very moving service and I got through I'll take you home again Kathleen with great difficulty seeing baskets of bonnets on the altar."
Stay in touch! If there's anything I can do let me know. I will get onto making a bonnet when I break for summer!
I am so utterly delighted that this little gem of a story is getting told again. I thank my daughter Frances who is so gifted with words and has been instrumental in exposing the beauty and the tragedy of this story. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.