‘Stitched Up’ progress report….

The deadline for the ‘Stitched Up’ exhibition is drawing near and I have been busy pulling together all the images I’ve created.  Creating the images has been the easy task – pulling them together into a cohesive artwork has been more difficult.  Perhaps this parallels with the challenges of the original researcher encountered in unearthing the stories of the girls who attended the Newcastle Industrial School!

As mentioned in a previous post on this exhibition, my original concept was to use the ‘paper doll’, a childhood toy, as a symbol of childhood; of fun, of playfulness, of imaginary worlds.  Yet the clothes to dress the ‘paper doll’ in this artwork symbolize either domestic service or the garments made by the girls for the ‘well to do’ and speak of the freedom of childhood perhaps not experienced.   A childhood that appears to have had many labels attached; poor, destitute, impoverished, vulnerable, convicts daughter, drunkards daughter, brothel owners daughter, inmate…to name a few.  It has been difficult for me to ascertain exactly what the Young sisters were arrested for,- was it because their mother was unable to care for them?  In fact the four Young sisters first came to the attention of the authorities on 31st July 1867, they “appeared on the list of children at risk” (Wikidot.com) According to the same research “no reports of the arrest of any of the sisters appear in the NSW Police Gazette” but “newspapers report the arrest of two sisters in Sydney” and these two sisters have been identified as two of the Young sisters.  They “had been arrested in Sydney by Sergeant Goldrick, who stated that they had come to him at the Central…and that they wished to give themselves up in order to be sent to Newcastle”.  They also stated they had no parents and had been sleeping at the racecourse.  In checking their story the truth was revealed that they had been ‘in service’ and had run away. The two sisters arrived at the Industrial School in January 1870.

From what I read they were apprenticed to domestic service a number of times but plans fell through each time.   It appears that the sisters I have chosen to focus on have had a somewhat different journey to other girls from the school.  The records suggest that the girls gave themselves over to the police and requested to be sent to the Newcastle Industrial School.  Was home life so tough that they were looking for something better??? One of the sisters married illegally – under age – without the consent of parents.  Was this another attempt to escape ….

Both sisters went on to marry, have children and live to old age.  Charlotte’s obituary records her as Charlotte Elizabeth – an interesting fact considering the confusion over whether it was Charlotte or Elizabeth who attended the school.  It also records that “she was unselfish, active in the Labour movement and a worker for the relief of the poor.”

A fascinating project that has kept me busy for many hours, stretched me out of my comfort zone and taught me a great deal.

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