The Value of Tea Towels – Documenting History

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The Value of Tea Towels – Documenting History


A few days ago, ABC Radio Brisbane released a piece of news titled “Queensland Museum gifted tea cloth signed by prominent federal, state politicians,” which recorded a tea towel with more than 100 years of history in Australia. Beatrice’s granddaughter Ruth recently donated the tea cloth to the Queensland Museum.

Curator Judith Hickson says the kitchen item would have been a “great point of discussion”.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

The news overview is as follows:

A tea cloth embroidered with the signatures of more than 60 politicians from the early 1900s has prompted a nationwide search for the people and history behind the names.

Complete with mended holes and small kitchen stains, historians believe the 113-year-old linen tea cloth shows the names of both federal and state members stitched around the signature of former Labor prime minister Andrew Fisher.

The years “1909” and “1915” have been embroidered on either side – the years Mr Fisher was in government.

Queensland Museum curator Judith Hickson hopes the public can help them unearth the stories behind the tea cloth puzzle, especially four signatures on the towel yet to be identified.

One of the signatures the museum hopes to decipher is that of a J Macdonald.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

Story of women behind male politicians

The cloth was embroidered by Beatrice Ferricks in the early 1900s; her husband Myles was a Labor party member at the time.

Beatrice Ferricks pictured in her black dress which was also passed down to her granddaughter with the tea cloth.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

“It’s been well used, mended, slightly stained and worn from use before being folded and put away in the cupboard — it’s certainly had a place in the home,” Ms. Hickson says.

“It’s the size of a card table and I imagine it would have been a great point of discussion for visitors to the Ferricks home.”

Ms Hickson believes the cloth would not have been preserved without the women and wants to pay tribute to them for preserving the story.

“Really it’s a women’s story as the cloth has been passed down by these women and we wouldn’t have this story without them, it’s allowed us to see these stories with fresh eyes,” she says.

ABC Radio Brisbane / By Jessica HinchliffePosted Mon 9 May 2022 at 8:07am

Yes, every tea towel records a beautiful story. This tea towel makes us re-understand its value. It records the history and a family story. It may be a wedding tea towel that records your wedding, a designer tea towel that records your artistic inspiration, a school tea towel that records your child’s growth, or a promotional tea towel that records your career development. In short, as long as you have a story, you can record it in the form of tea towels.



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