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Ada Perry Collection

Koalas - Ada Perry, circa 1930s-1960s

Image: Koalas - Ada Perry, circa 1930s-1960s

Source: Museum Victoria

Ada Perry migrated to Australia from England as a widow with eight children in 1924. Viewing herself in the role of 'pioneer', she struggled to work a piece of isolated government allocated land at Mirboo North in Victoria. A buggy accident in 1928 left her unable to continue physical labour and while her children worked to pay off the government loan and work the land, Ada worked with her hands. She had made and brought things out from England which have not survived; this collection represents the type of handcrafts she produced during the 30 year period she was in Australia. They are prototypes, as she kept the first of anything she created for her children and then gave away the rest.

The quilts, toys and dolls are not what might be described as 'fine' examples of handcrafts but they provide an evocative insight into a domestic environment where subsistence was a struggle, where 'making do' was a matter of course, and where a woman took much pride in creating gifts for family and neighbours. All of the items have been made using available scraps or reusing old clothes. The quilts and rugs in particular show a range of quilting and rug making styles, including appliqué, 'crazy' quilting, patchwork, embroidery and hook and rag work.

The breadth of the collection demonstrates the range of items Ada was crafting as well as her varied skills. The two knitted toys are thought to have been made by Betty, Ada's youngest daughter who cared for her mother till her death in 1962. Betty also painted and made craft work during the 1970s and 1980s; consequently, these items illustrate the handing down of domestic skills from mother to daughter.

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