This early Victorian sunbonnet is believed to have belonged to Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850), mistress of Elizabeth Farm near Parramatta and a pioneer of the Australian wool industry. Elizabeth, who was born in Devon, England, came to Australia in 1790 with the Second Fleet as the wife of Lieutenant John Macarthur of the New South Wales Corps. John Macarthur became a large landholder with great pastoral ambitions. He was also a turbulent figure in colonial politics and spent long periods in exile from the colony. Throughout her husband’s absences Elizabeth Macarthur was left with her younger children to manage his agricultural and grazing concerns and his complex trading ventures. She maintained Elizabeth Farm as her home until her death, living in her later years a retired life centred on her family and the delights of her garden. This sunbonnet dates from those late years. It is made from unbleached linen, drawn over a series of 25 whalebone hoops, supported by 5 radiating stays and with a brim reinforced with wire. A handmade replica of the bonnet is used at Elizabeth Farm for education programmes and in house presentation.
Submitted by jays on 28 January 2014 - 2:05pm
Photograph: Alex Kershaw, 2010