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Heidelberg’s Busy Bee Signature Quilt, 1895-96

Square J1

Quilt square J1


E. A. F. / 1895


We believe that the person represented is Elizabeth Anna Fraser (1855-1948), the eldest daughter of Reverend Duncan Fraser and his second wife, Anna Elizabeth (née Reay).

Further information

Elizabeth Anna Fraser’s mother (Anna Elizabeth) and sister (Lottie) were members of the Busy Bees, named in the [Central] square. Her father, Reverend Duncan Fraser, is also named in the Central square.

Lottie additionally contributed square [E15], and Anna Elizabeth is likely to have contributed square [E17]. Several of Elizabeth Anna’s siblings also contributed squares: another sister, Frances, is at [J11] and two of her brothers, James and Duncan, are at [D11] and [L1] respectively.

Elizabeth Anna was born in England and migrated to Australia with her parents in 1862. She suffered a lifelong disability (caused by ‘infantile paralysis’ , now known as poliomyelitis) that meant she walked with the aid of crutches. This did not, however, prevent her from living an active and independent life - catching the train, and travelling to Tasmania by ship in 1902 and 1921, and by plane in 1935, to visit her brother, Donald Fraser (1866-1942). In Tasmania, she rode on horseback when required.

She never married, and appears to have resided with her parents throughout their lives. She was a teacher who, from 1888, managed her own school, Victoria College, opposite the Old England Hotel in Heidelberg. Some of her students were boarders. Her membership of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society may mean that she was responsible for the quilt squares relating to Shakespeare - see [D1], [D5] and [C17]. She may also be represented (as ‘EF’) at [K4].

Her niece, Lexie, daughter of Donald Fraser, recalled: ‘She used to translate books into Braille by hand for the Braille Society. She made lace using a very intricate system of spools and pin cushions with a multiplicity of threads.’ It is possible that Elizabeth Anna designed the pattern for the lace that is incorporated in the quilt, and contributed, with others, to its making.

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