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Heidelberg’s Busy Bee Signature Quilt, 1895-96


Quilt square CENTRAL


Scot's Church Heidelberg Busy Bee



This square identifies the quilt-making group (Busy Bee) and its eight core members, plus the focus of their fund-raising work (the Scots Church, Heidelberg, and its minister, Reverend Duncan Fraser.

Further information

The eight names around the beehive in the Central square can all be identified as women in the Scots Church community when the quilt was made.

It is likely that they were the key members of the Busy Bee group, responsible for publicity for the project, fund-raising, design and needlework. Their use of initials rather than full names makes it hard to identify every person.

There are several possibilities for I and M Donaldson and for I and J Smith, but we are confident of the other four. The group included both mature and younger women: mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins. We don’t know whether the group had a leader or chief designer or organiser.

We think that the quilt project would have offered a supportive network for women going through tough times because of a violent marriage (Margaret McCracken), bereavement and the disruption of house-moving (the Frasers), and family divisions caused by the Templestowe church rift (the Smiths).

C Smith is Christine, the daughter of David and Ann, dairy farmers from Templestowe. Aged 26, Christine was unmarried and teaching in the Scots Church Sunday School. Her eldest sister Annie, Mrs GR Cumming [K13], may have organised the contribution of squares from Williamstown. The other Busy Bee Smiths (I Smith and J Smith) are probably her cousins, although I Smith could be her aunt Isabella (Mrs George Smith) who had attended the inaugural meeting of the Busy Bee society in March 1895.

L Fraser is Charlotte (known as Lottie), daughter of the Scots Church minister, Reverend Duncan Fraser. She was aged about 21 when the quilt was finished.

AE Fraser is Lottie’s mother, Mrs Anna Elizabeth Fraser, aged about 50. This was a tumultuous year in her life. In January 1895 her daughter Alexandra had died at the age of 22. Later that year the family moved from a manse at Northcote to premises in Heidelberg, and commenced building their own home in Banksia Street.

M McCracken is Margaret, aged about 37 and wife of Adam McCracken who leased and managed Banyule House from 1891 until the late 1890s.

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