Australian Quaker Narrative Embroidery Committee

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Peace: Embroidery by Elinor Robey

This panel celebrates the Quaker Peace Testimony, which springs from the fundamental Quaker belief of ‘that of God in everyone’. Other panels illustrate this testimony in action. 

The central design is a depiction of an embroidery made by a Tasmanian Friend in the early 20th century. At the bottom is a quote from the period following World War II. 

Elinor (‘Linor) and Margie Robey were the great-grand-daughters of both Robert Mather and Francis Cotton, early stalwarts of the Hobart Meeting. The history of the Society in Australia was closely interwoven with their own family history.

Linor attended the Friends High School and went on to teach sewing at the school.  She went to England in 1912 and spent time at Woodbrooke. She attended classes at the Birmingham School of Art and in 1913 she studied at the Glasgow School of Art, taking a course in Educational Needlework. It was probably during this time that ‘Linor embroidered the piece which is featured in this panel.

Returning to her old school, from 1914 to 1922, she taught sewing, crafts and drawing, being in residence part of the time. She painted many exquisite studies of berries and wild flowers, though that was a life’s work. They were a joy to all who saw them.

For many years 'Linor and Margie constituted the mainstay of Hobart Meeting, especially when attendance reached an all-time low. They travelled regularly each Sunday by ferry from Bellerive, and then by foot to the old Meeting House in Murray Street to prepare the room for Meeting for Worship. It was dusted, flowers from their garden were arranged and a warm welcome awaited everyone.

The Robey house at Bellerive was a delight to visit. It was a veritable storehouse of early Tasmanian Quaker history and nothing delighted ‘Linor more than appreciation of this. Her clothes were made and remade of plain, good material - a testimony to Quaker simplicity.

During and after the Second World War vast quantities of clothing were collected for war victims and stored in the basement of the Meeting House in Murray Street. For the sorting, cleaning, mending and dispatch of these ‘Linor was the driving force. She was also directly concerned in the 1945 United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) clothes drive, which was State wide.

Perhaps her most outstanding contribution to the Society was her tremendous interest in the work of the Friends’ Service Council, the precursor to Quaker Service Australia.  She was indefatigable in her efforts to obtain support for the Council.

When ‘Linor died in 1971 she left this embroidery in her will to Pat Hewett (now Pat Mavromatis) who was the first employee of QSA, a trained nurse sent to work at Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia, India. Pat was approached by the National Gallery and asked to donate it to their collection. They have thirty two of Linor’s works in the Gallery. Most of these works are water colours, but a few of them are embroideries. This embroidery was donated in 2016. 

The quotation below the embroidery is from a letter to Japanese Friends from the Australian General Meeting in 1947. The full quote reads: 

‘We have been reminded that we are members one of another and that in a very real sense the world is one.’

Designed from 'Linor's embroidery by Sally O'Wheel

To be stitched by Margaret Bywater who visited the Robey's house often and knew this embroidery well. It is in Cambodia.