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The Signature Quilt


The concept of a “Signature” Quilt is also an old tradition which dates back to the late 1800's but one that actually historically commemorates men, although created by women.

Our Signature Quilt, like the women who signed it, takes over this former male domain. It is made by women to commemorate women. The 342 women who signed our Signature Quilt are all first in their field in some way. Our Signature Quilt is literally a “Patchwork of Empowerment”.

The National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame (NPWHF) committee member and experienced quilter, Jan Millington initiated the project at the end of 2000. NPWHF Curator at the time, Pauline Cockrill researched the names and addresses of the women to be approached and then Honorary Secretary Val Mitchell handled the bulk of the correspondence. Jan Millington and fellow quilter Julie Heller spent many hours putting the quilt together and searching for appropriate fabric to match the achievements of each of the women signatories.

The first signature was received in August 2000, the last on 1 March 2003. Chief Minister Clare Martin, herself a first (first Australian Labor Party (ALP) and first female Chief Minister of the Northern Territory in the 2001 election) did the official launch at the Old Courthouse on 7 March 2003 and all signatories were invited.

The Signature Quilt was first hung on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2004 at the old Alice Springs Court House, and was displayed along with a ring binder of information about each of the signatories.

The Quilt moved with the museum to the Old Alice Springs Gaol in 2007 and has been on permanent display in the Old Gaol Kitchen ever since.

The NPWHF was renamed in 2019 to the Australian Women's Museum and the Signature Quilt has been rehoused in a secure showcase to reduce damage from insect attack and pollutants in the environment. This also stops damage caused by perspiration, dirt and body oils resulting from people touching the Quilt.

The Quilt is folded in three, so that one third of the Quilt is on display at any one time and two-thirds of the Quilt are rested from display. Each year, we change the third which is on display.

In this way, we can continue having the Quilt on display while ensuring that we care for it properly.


342 signed calico rectangles with 342 patterned rectangles to match signatories, machine pieced with black cotton margins, wadding and calico backing.

For further information about the signatories and making of the Quilt please visit https://pioneerwomen.com.au/quilt


The making and conservation of the Signature Quilt was made possible thanks to the support of many individuals and organisations. We would like to acknowledge the following supporters:

We are grateful for donations of materials from the following businesses and quilters, both local and interstate:

Colleen Byrnes of Sew ForU of Alice Springs: donation of calico and other fabric for squares

Mini Jumbuk of Naracoorte, SA: donation of Nu Wool Wadding.

XLN Fabrics of Kings Park, NSW: donation of backing fabric and patterned fabric for squares

Rosmarie Imhof, Jean Gooding, Julie Heller, Mary McCarthy, Karren McCluskey (Alice Springs Quilting Club): donation of fabric for squares

Jane Gibson (NSW Quilters Guild): donation of fabric for squares

Marg Waters, Val Mitchell, Pauline Cockrill: donation of fabric for squares

Conservation of the Quilt donors:
Helen Brownlee, Deirdre Swan, Julie Hammer, Susan Kiefel, Fay Leditschke, Rosemary Crowley, Barbara Abley, Ann ten Seldam, Tony and Robin Wilson, Lesley Hunkin, Jenny Hunter, Jean Spens, Collette Dinnigan, Adrienne Clarke, Wendy Craik, Gaby Kennard, Sally Thomas, Beverley Ellis, Carmel Niland, Sue Boyd, Ita Buttrose, Elizabeth Chipman, Wendy Collits, Joan Decker, Helen Creed, Melissa Raymond, Kay Goldsworthy, Marion Free, Julie Sutherland and Frieda Evans

Rotary Club of Alice Springs, the Alice Springs Quilting Club and the Alice Springs branch of the Country Women’s Association

Further to our fundraising efforts, the project was supported by a Northern Territory Government Heritage grant.

For their work on the design and construction of our beautiful display case, we would like to thank:

Ross and Lynne Peterkin; Paul Cilka of Neata Glass; Dave Bloomer from The Cabinet Shop; and Ross Engineering.

A big thanks to local businesses Alice Mobile Blinds, Steve’s Electrix, Hut Six and Brushcraft Signs for their support.

And to Barry Skipsey for his wonderful photos.

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