Hi, welcome to String Revolution. I'm Léan, I live in Dublin with my husband and two little boys, and I am a dangerous stringy subversive.
My job is to radiate my creative truth, and to help you radiate yours. I create, without exception, every day. I write here when I have something to say.

(learn more about me).

Alice’s Bonnet

Embroidery of Alice McAnnally's name

I’m making a bonnet for a woman I will never meet, a woman who very probably died before my great-grandparents were born. Her name was Alice McAnnally, and she was a convicted criminal.

I don’t know what law she broke (although I imagine that anything I’d consider really bad would’ve got her hanged). Maybe she stole Trevelyan’s corn so the young might see the morn – something like that, anyway.

All I know about her is that she sailed to Australia in a ship called the Elizabeth in 1828, a transported convict.

Why am I making her a bonnet, of all things?

Christina Henri is a Tasmanian artist; her Roses from the Heart project will consist of 25,266 bonnets from around the world – one for each woman transported to Australia between 1788 and 1853.

Someone in my branch of the Irish Patchwork Society was handing out patterns and names a couple of months ago, and I got Alice.

I know very little about the lives of female convicts, but it wasn’t what you’d call a cushy billet. They worked as servants or prostitutes, or in “female factories” (which sound rather like our own Magdalene Laundries). They were treated fairly universally as the chattels of men – which was business as usual, of course, but in a way intensified by the penal context.

Fun times.

Embroidering Alice’s name was an oddly powerful experience. (From talking to other bonnet-makers, this is common.) Nothing links me to this woman, as far as I know; our lives are almost unimaginably different.

And yet, I have found meaning in stitching this memorial to her.

When it’s finished, I’ll tell you more about how I went about the task.

14 comments to Alice’s Bonnet

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