Primary Source

Sewing Classes at Mount Margaret Mission

Black and white photo of 10 girls and one teacher seated at tables with needles, fabric, and sewing machines. Girls are dark-skinned. Teacher is white.
Black and white photo of 11 girls and one teacher some sitting some standing at tables with needles, fabric, and sewing machines. Girls are dark-skinned. Teacher is white.

Annotation

These two photographs, from the State Library of Western Australia, show Aboriginal girls learning to sew from Dorothy Lovick at the Mount Margaret Mission in Laverton, Australia, in the 1930s. The first photograph shows a middle school class, while the second one features a senior class. As reflected in these photographs, domesticity remained the cornerstone of girls’ education in colonial and missionary schools through at least the mid-twentieth century. Like schools for indigenous children in other parts of the empire, Mount Margaret Mission sought to assimilate Aboriginal girls and break their bonds with their homes and communities. 

As noted in the above essay, understanding the experiences of Aboriginal and other indigenous girls under colonialism remains difficult because of the nature of the colonial archive. Written records from their perspectives are rarely preserved in the archive, which makes visual sources like these photographs especially valuable. These photographs, like all sources, must be approached with caution, since they were created with a specific purpose and audience and meant to convey a certain picture of colonial girlhood. Nevertheless, they provide a glimpse into their lives under colonialism. 
This source is part of the exploring empire through the lens of childhood and gender teaching module

Credits

Top photo: “Bessie, ?, Dorothy Kristensen, Nellie, Nardie, ?,?,?,?, ?, Queenie, Nina. Dimple at back. Senior girls sewing class at Mt Margaret Mission, 1933,” photograph, State Library of Western Australia, BA1340/ERA3/34B, available at https://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b4054307_1.

Bottom photo: “Ruby, Kathie, Shirley, Muriel, Maisie. Mrs Lovick. Middle school girls sewing class at Mt Margaret Mission, 1938,” photograph, State Library of Western Australia, BA1340/ERA3/35A, available at https://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b4054307_2.

More information about the Mount Margaret Mission is available “Missions, Settlements and Reserves,” Western Australia Museum, 2016, accessed December 15, 2021, https://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/wa-goldfields/first-peoples/missions-settlements-and-reserves

How to Cite This Source

"Sewing Classes at Mount Margaret Mission," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/sewing-classes-mount-margaret-mission [accessed May 23, 2022]