What was it like for women in the late 19th century? A new exhibition at the Armidale Folk Museum depicts daily life for a woman of that time using objects from the museum’s collection dating from the 1880s.
A trio of dresses tells the story of a young bride – tiny by today’s standards – and her journey into married life.
“These beautifully handmade gowns were incredibly complex in their construction. Sewing machines were becoming more common by then but a lot of the labour was done by hand and demonstrates the time, love and pride that was imparted into these garments,” Museum Team Leader Hayley Ward said.
“We’re incredibly lucky that, despite some damage to the clothing, they’re still in one piece and we’re able to display them 140 years later.”
Other objects present a life based on the rituals and traditions from the past as these pioneering women struggled to shape their future. Domestic labour and ‘making do’ were cornerstones of women’s lives as they strived to maintain the customs of polite English society in a new country.
Parrot pie and kangaroo tail soup supplemented traditional fare as supplies from the old country and more established towns came and went. Long sea voyages delayed fashion magazines and dress supplies as stylish young women endeavoured to keep up to date with the latest trends from Europe.
In our modern age of instant connection it’s difficult to imagine the long periods of isolation these women endured and the constant waiting for news from family, friends and the latest events from half way across the world.
A day in her life will be on display from 1 February to 20 April 2020 at the Armidale Folk Museum, corner of Rusden and Faulkner Streets. Open daily 11am to 2pm. Entry by donation.