Thursday, 30th March 2017
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‘Roses from Heart’ bonnet exhibition  remembers women banished to Van Diemen’s Land

Three historical exhibitions uniquely linked from Waterford to Tasmania. “Roses from the Heart” Bonnet exhibition; Waterford Women’s history exhibition; Thomas Francis Meagher exhibition at Waterford City Library opening 4th March at 11.30am and runs until the 25th March and is well worth visiting.

Three strands of Waterford history come together in one venue to present an incredible story of endurance, resilience and courage From Tasmania to Waterford we meet Dr Christina Henri presenting her dedicated lifelong work, 'Roses from the Heart', a Memorial to the 25,566 women sentenced to transportation as convicts from the then British Isles to Australia and Tasmania (formerly named van Diemen’s Land) between 1788 & 1853. Some of those women and children were from Waterford. Christina, an artist, has chosen a cloth bonnet, taken from an original 1860s servant's bonnet, to symbolise the lives of these convict women whose stories have been shrouded by a veil of amnesia for far too long. Christina Henri believes that many of these impoverished women were transported simply for being vagrants. When afforded opportunities in Tasmania or Australia the women’s resilience and fortitude saw them flourish and contribute to the growth of the emerging nation.

The named bonnets on display here have been made and embellished by contemporary women in Waterford remembering the 304 Waterford Women from the past. A bonnet will be exhibited to pay tribute to Quaker social reformer, Elizabeth Fry, first woman to campaign for better prison conditions.

Grangegorman Female Depot (now the Grangegorman Development Authority) opened in 1836. It was the first female penitentiary in the then Britsh Isles that was built according to Quaker prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry’s, precepts. She was also instrumental in the placement of Mrs Marian Rawlins as matron. there.

Profiles of some of those Waterford Women convicts transported to Australia from Waterford are presented among the Waterford Women’s Centre annual extensive exhibition. This exibition highlights the Waterford city and county women’s stories through photographs and written narrative and celebrates International Women’s Day today (8th of March).

It is the work of Andrew Kelly, Kilmacthomas and Ann Fitzgerald of Waterford Women’s Centre.

The work is comprised of a growing and extensive collection of women from all areas of life, who have made a valuable contribution to the development of Waterford. Waterford’s Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867), was a Young Irelander, Irish and American Patriot and originator of our National Tricolour. He was sentenced after the abortive 1848 Rising to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but his sentence was subsequently commuted by Queen Victoria, to transportation to van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He was the son of Thomas Meagher, the first Catholic Mayor of Waterford.

Thomas Francis Meagher married Catherine Bennett in 1851 in Tasmania. She was daughter of Irish parents, born in Tasmania, her mother having arrived in van Diemen's Land as a free woman, to be reunited with her husband, Bryan Bennett, from County Cavan. He had been transported aboard the Minerva in 1818. Thomas and Catherine had two sons, Henry Emmet Fitzgerald Meagher and Thomas Francis (Bennett) Meagher. Sadly baby Henry died aged 4 months and is buried in St John’s Church, Richmond, Tasmania. Young Thomas was born in Waterford, later moving to America. Catherine, their mother, is buried in Faithlegge, Co Waterford. Catherine Bennett and son Henry Emmet will be remembered with specially named bonnets at the Waterford exhibition. Francis Meagher died in Montana in 1867. Dr Christina Henri, Honorary artist in residence at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in Hobart, Australia. Christina uses art as a tool to give meaning to history.

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