Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt, 1841. The Rajah Quilt, 1841. Copyright National Gallery of Australia, acc. no. NGA 89.2285.

The Rajah quilt is a convict quilt produced in 1841, which is now in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (acc. no. NGA 89.2285). It was produced by an estimated 29 female prisoners being transported to Australia on the British convict ship, the Rajah.

The quilt is 325 x 337 cm in size and is classed as a medallion quilt, because of the appliqué chintz central square. The quilt is believed to have been produced under the direction of Miss Keiza Hayter, an associate of the British social reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845). Hayter was given free passage on board the ship in order to work with the 180 women prisoners. Hayter disembarked with the prisoners in Hobart, Tasmania (then known as Van Diemens’s Land), in order to work with Lady Jane Franklin (1791-1875; wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania) to form the Tasmanian Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners.

The following inscription is stitched in silk thread on the quilt: "To the Ladies of the Convict ship committee. This quilt worked by the Convicts of the ship Rajah during their voyage to van Diemans Land is presented as a testimony to the gratitude with which they remember their exertions for their welfare while in England and during their passage and also as proof that they have not neglected the Ladies kind admonition of being industrious. June 1841"

Of recent interest: in 1996 the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild in Canada created a replica of the Rajah quilt and donated it to the Elizabeth Fry Society (EFS) in honour of their 45th anniversary. It can be viewed in the EFS offices in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

National Gallery of Australia online catalogue (retrieved 17th May 2017).


Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 13:03