Black dress worn by Mrs Jane Crain

Contributed by: Museum of the Riverina

Mrs Jane 'Granny' Crain (nee Whiticker) Front view of dress Cuff detail Back view of dress Mrs Jane Crain Detail of collar Skirt detail Hooks & eyes - bodice front Jane with sons Bill and Sonny, Sydney, c. 1916 Fabric surface pulled on bodice Skirt interior Bodice interior The Mt. Adrah homestead and hotel, rebuilt in 1916. This photograph was taken about 1920. Granny Jane Crain being pushed in a home-made wheelchair by her granddaughter Doris Maxworthy. Beaded lace overpiece worn by Jane Crain, c. 1880s Hat worn by Jane Crain Jane 'Granny' Crain with 11 of her 12 children, c. 1899
  • Australian dress register ID:

    247
  • Owner:

    Museum of the Riverina
  • Date range:

    1902 - 1910
  • Place of origin:

    Mount Adrah, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

This black dress worn by 'Granny' Jane Crain can be viewed as an example of epitomising the hard-working, (often) tough, and industrious pioneering women who helped shape the fledgling township of Wagga Wagga (and the Riverina district).

When properly fitted on a mannequin, it belies some of the character of the wearer. It is easy to imagine 'Granny' Crain as being a lady of small stature, with a ramrod straight back, being both upright and forthright in character and bearing. Her great-granddaughter remembers Jane as being 'a strong, tough, bossy little lady who loved playing cards'.

While other local women of Jane's ilk - including Eliza Tompson, Annie Isabelle Henningham, Margaret Johnston and Susannah Brown have left no personal, tangible mementos in the Museum's collection, this dress perhaps also speaks for their legacy as well.

Author: Michelle A. Maddison, 10th August 2010.

Description

Black dress worn by Mrs Jane 'Granny' Crain. Dress comprises a long-sleeved bodice and a skirt of matching fabric. The collar, sleeve cuffs and skirt bottom (front centre) have appliqued stylised flowers, embroidered in silk thread and net. The flowers are very Eastern in design, similar to large peonies or chrysanthemums. The bodice has a short black peplum around the waist, made of a different black fabric.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Jane Whiticker was born on 17 January 1859 at 'Buckingbong' Station, near Narrandera, NSW, the second child of Richard and Mary Ann Whiticker. She was baptised on 20 March that year, in St. John's (Anglican) Church, Wagga.

On 17 January 1881, her 22nd birthday, Jane married Irvine Crain, a young Irish grazier from Mt. Adrah. It was reported that 'Irvine took a long time to catch Jane, because she wanted marriage her way, and not while Irvine was away with the bullock teams... When Irvine and Jane were married they built a small slab house on the eastern bank of the Nacki Creek, at a place known as the 'Big S'. [DA, March 1989].

Irvine and Jane bought the Mount Adrah pub and had 12 children by the year 1901: Mabel Maxworthy (b. 1882), Lillian 'Lill' Geaghan (b. 1883), Irvine 'Son' or 'Crain' (b. 1885), Florence Kennedy 'Doll' (b. 1886), George (b. 1888), Edith 'Edie' Sutcliffe (b. 1890), Rosetta Sinclair 'Rose' (b. 1892), Jane Russell (b. 1893), Richard Leslie 'Bill' (b. 1895), Victoria 'Vicki' Neiberding (b. 1897), William Consort 'Con' (b. 1898) and Wallace Oliver 'Joe' or 'Olly' (b. 1902).

When Jane and Irvine's eldest daughter married and began having children, Jane became known as Granny Crain, the name which stayed with her until she died in 1949 at the age of 90, while Irvine was simply known as Grandfather.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Dark colours such as neutral greys, browns, blues and blacks were both elegant and practical, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were often favoured by older ladies. The stylised appliqued flowers are probably Eastern in design, and may have been imported by Chinese settlers or businessmen to the Riverina. Jane Crain's dress provides us with an insight into the style of garment worn by a businesswoman of Jane's standing, living in a small but bustling town at the turn of the 20th century.

Where did this information come from?

The information about Jane 'Granny' Crain has come from a number of sources, including:

* Donation letter (2007) written by her great granddaughter

* "The History and Family Tree of Richard and Mary Ann Whiticker of Jellingroo and Their Descendants", Compiled by A.P. Morris, 1988 [supplied by Mrs P. Rodd, Tumut]

* "The First Hundred Years" by E. K. Geaghan

In 2011, further family information was received from L. Chilver, who also supplied two photographs of Jane, c. 1916.

This garment has been exhibited

This dress has not yet been exhibited, but was displayed on a mannequin as part of the Australian Dress Register workshop held at the Museum of the Riverina (Botanic Gardens Site), Wagga Wagga in June 2010.

  1. Place of origin:

    Mount Adrah, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Unknown

  3. Owned by:

    Mrs Jane Crain

  4. Worn by:

    Mrs Jane Crain

  5. Occasion(s):

    Possibly Sunday Best

  6. Place:

    Mount Adrah and Wagga Wagga (Riverina District), New South Wales

  7. Designed by:

    Unknown

  8. Made by:

    Jane's great granddaughter donated this garment to the Museum, and in the letter accompanying the donation, she writes:

    [the] 'black slub satin outfit is machine stitched but all the lace, brocade, press studs and hooks & eyes are hand stitched, by a not very good seamstress.'

  9. Made for:

    Mrs Jane Crain

Trimmings / Decoration

Embroidery

Silk thread flowers and leaves appliqued to collar, cuffs and skirt front

Fibre / Weave

* Bodice and skirt are both of black silk satin

* Black silk thread embroidered flowers appliqued around bodice collar, cuffs and on skirt centre (front). Applique also incorporates fine black net

* Peplum on bodice is black cotton fabric

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The lace, brocade, beads, ribbons, press studs and hooks and eyes on this dress have all been hand sewn. The dress itself, however, is machine stitched. In the letter which accompanied this donation, Jane's great granddaughter writes that the hand stitching was done 'by a not very good seamstress'.

Label

None

Alterations

The peplum may be a later addition

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Press studs

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Measurements

bodice skirt
Girth
Chest 980 mm
Waist 810 mm 800 mm
Hip 1120 mm
Hem circumference 2420 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 300 mm
Front waist to hem 900 mm
Back neck to hem 480 mm
Back waist to hem 930 mm
Sleeve length 590 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 115 mm
Cross back 350 mm
Underarm to underarm 480 mm
Convert to inches

Dress Themes

Due to the quality of fabric used in this dress, and the good condition in which it remains one hundred years on, this dress may have been worn by Jane as 'Sunday Best'. It most certainly isn't the type of dress which would have been worn on a daily basis.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

In 1989, two full-page articles titled 'A Fine Family Saga: Mt Adrah pioneers' story fascinating (Part One)' and 'Fun and Crains at Mount Adrah (Part Two)', written by Rella Adair were published in The Daily Advertiser newspaper. The photographs reproduced below are taken from Part Two.

The daughter of Lillian Jane Geaghan (nee Crain), E.K. Geaghan published a family history titled 'The First Hundred Years' (post-1970). In this, she provided a brief biography of each of Thomas and Matilda's eight children. She also provides anecdotal stories about the family's life at Mount Adrah.

The Crain family descendants eventually published a journal, titled 'The Crain Family of Mount Adrah'. It is of Granny and Grandfather Crain and their children that the bulk of the tales in this journal is about. It tells of bushfires and rabbit plagues, great sporting achievements, and 'wild stories of blacks', swaggies and itinerants who drifted in and away from the area.

In about 1988, another family publication was written - 'The History and Family Tree of Richard and Mary Ann Whiticker of Jellingroo and their Descendants'.

References:

The Daily Advertiser, Saturday 4 March 1989, p. 32

The Daily Advertiser, Saturday 11 March 1989, p. 29

Author: Rella Adair

Other related objects

* Black hat with sequin and feather decoration

* Elaborately beaded lace over-piece with high neckline and ribbons to tie at waist

* Long black shirt, hand hemmed

* Long white heavy cotton petticoat with pocket, with hand crocheted lace

* Lawn nightdress with hand crochet inserts

* White apron

* White top with Jane's name handwritten in Indian ink inside

Link to collection online

Condition

Jane Crain's dress is in excellent condition. The only evidence of wear and tear is on the left side of the bodice front, where some of the fabric surface has been pulled slightly.

Evidence of repairs

None

Insect damage

None

Mould damage

None

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Scratched

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