By: Annette Gero
Australia was founded as a British penal colony after cessation of transportation to America. Thus the early 19th cent rue Australian quilts reflect an English influence (chintz medallion quilts or silk hexagons and tumbling blocks). However, by the 1870’s, Australia was beginning to experience an independent national pride and Australian symbols and motifs appeared on all forms of decorative arts. Thus patriotic patchwork quilts began to appear. These quilts reflect the indigenous flora and fauna (kangaroos, emus, etc.), aborigines as well as national symbols such as colonial flags and coats of arms. Many were made to celebrate national events (International Colonial exhibitions, the Centenary or Federation) or were simply created by the national pride of the quiltmaker.
I intended to discuss nine patriotic quilts, each of which reflects an aspect of the social or technological change in the society and to discuss their significance with respect to the political change of the time. One quilt is composed of scenes depicting the life in a small village; three quilts made by one woman with the theme “Advance Australia”, incorporating aborigines and native animals; two quilts in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee; one made to support Federation incorporating a coat of arms taken from a coin minted in 1853; and two quilts reflecting Australia’s involvement in the World Wars. My research over the past four years has determined that quiltmaking was only one of the many forms of needlework made by women in Australia. Thus patriotic quilts are few and far between and are important both historically and visually.