About The Quilt


2000 – 2003

A Nation­al Pio­neer Women’s Hall of Fame Project made by Jan Milling­ton assist­ed by Julie Heller, Cura­tor Pauline Cock­rill, assist­ed by hon­orary sec­re­tary Val Mitchell. 

Our Sig­na­ture Quilt, like the women who signed it, is made by women to com­mem­o­rate women. 

The 343 women who signed our Sig­na­ture Quilt are all first in their field in some way. Our Sig­na­ture Quilt is lit­er­al­ly a Patch­work of Empowerment”.

Made in a vari­ety of inks (sig­na­tures), cot­ton, print­ed cot­ton and poly­cot­ton, wool/​polyester batting 

Dimen­sions: 3150 mm h x 2550 mm w x 7 mm d 


The concept of a signature quilt is a tradition which dates back to the late 1800's. A signature or autograph quilt has multiple names signed, stamped, or embroidered on it. While examples exist prior to 1800, the tradition was popularized in the 19th century often as a means of fundraising or given as keepsakes to people relocating and rarely included signatures of famous people. 

Autograph quilts were often made in remembrance of family and friends, or as fundraisers. They were very popular in America throughout the 19th century, but less so in Australia. However, autograph quilts increased in popularity across Australia in the late 19th century.

As a fundraiser, subscribers paid a donation to write their name, signature or monogram on a square. The squares were then returned to the quilters who embroidered the names, and the squares were then patch-worked together to form the quilt. Completed quilts were often presented as gifts to esteemed individuals or auctioned to raise more money.

Jan Milling­ton piec­ing togeth­er the Sig­na­ture Quilt in 2003.


NPWHF com­mit­tee mem­ber and expe­ri­enced quil­ter, Jan Milling­ton first ini­ti­at­ed this inno­v­a­tive under­tak­ing at the end of 2000

NPWHF Cura­tor at the time Pauline Cock­rill researched the names and address­es of the women to be approached while Hon­orary Sec­re­tary Val Mitchell han­dled the bulk of the correspondence. 

Jan Milling­ton and fel­low quil­ter Julie Heller spent many hours putting the quilts togeth­er and search­ing for appro­pri­ate fab­ric to match the achieve­ments of each of the women signatories.

Julie Heller, Jan’s co-worker

The first sig­na­ture was received in August 2000, the last on 1 March 2003

A com­plete set of signed patch­es was used to make the Sig­na­ture Quilt while a the sec­ond set made up anoth­er which like the tra­di­tion was raf­fled to raise mon­ey for the NPWHF

Chief Min­is­ter Clare Mar­tin, (the first female Chief Min­is­ter of the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry in the 2001 elec­tion) offi­cial­ly launched the Quilt dis­play at the Old Cour­t­house on 7 March 2003 to coin­cide with Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day where all sig­na­to­ries were invited. 

At the Quilt launch: Julie Heller, Mol­ly Clark, Jan Milling­ton and Pauline Cock­rill. The red-bor­dered raf­fle Quilt is in the background.

The Sig­na­ture Quilt was dis­played to the pub­lic for the first time on Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day, 8 March 2004 at the old Alice Springs Court House (then the home of the Nation­al Pio­neer Wom­en’s Hall of Fame), along with a ring binder of infor­ma­tion about each of the signatories.

Two small­er sig­na­ture quilts were raf­fled as a fundrais­er at the launch.

The Quilt moved with the Women’s Muse­um to the Old Alice Springs Gaol in 2007 and was on per­ma­nent open dis­play in the Old Gaol Kitchen until March 2018.


Over time, we became con­cerned with the con­di­tion of the Sig­na­ture Quilt. Light and ultra-vio­let (UV) radi­a­tion are the great­est ene­mies of tex­tiles. They cause pho­to­chem­i­cal dete­ri­o­ra­tion: colours fade and fab­rics become frag­ile and split readily. 

Con­ser­va­tor Car­olyn McLen­nan assessed the con­di­tion of the Quilt in 2017 and con­clud­ed that while the struc­ture of the Quilt was good and the Quilt remained com­plete, some of the the sig­na­tures were in poor condition. 

Some 83% of the sig­na­tures had obvi­ous light dam­age, with 1% of those com­plete­ly gone and 22% of those so fad­ed they were illeg­i­ble at a stan­dard dis­play dis­tance. This was due to a com­bi­na­tion of the poor qual­i­ty inks used to sign the fab­ric and the light dam­age from the long term dis­play. Car­olyn also not­ed that the front edges of the Quilt were soiled from handling.

Below are some before and after exam­ples of sig­na­tures from 2003 and 2018.

Along with Carolyn’s con­di­tion report and con­ser­va­tion work on the Quilt, we were giv­en exten­sive assis­tance and advice from San­dra Yee (con­ser­va­tor, Muse­um and Art Gallery of the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry) and Kate Fen­nell (design­er, MAGNT).

We then set about rais­ing funds for exhibit­ing the Sig­na­ture Quilt in a safe and sus­tain­able display.

The Sig­na­ture Quilt is now displayed:

  • hor­i­zon­tal­ly to pro­vide prop­er sup­port as hang­ing the Quilt stress­es the stitching
  • with low­ered light­ing lev­els to slow down the rate of fad­ing and fab­ric dete­ri­o­ra­tion from expo­sure to ultra-vio­let radi­a­tion and high light­ing levels 
  • in a secure show­case to reduce dam­age from insect attack and pol­lu­tants in the envi­ron­ment and human touch

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.


The mak­ing and con­ser­va­tion of the Sig­na­ture Quilt has been made pos­si­ble thanks to the sup­port of many organ­i­sa­tions and peo­ple who appre­ci­ate the val­ue of the Quilt and want to help care for it. We would like to acknowl­edge the fol­low­ing supporters:

Dona­tions of materials:

  • 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

Donat­ing to the con­ser­va­tion of the Quilt:

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

The con­ser­va­tion project was sup­port­ed by the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment Her­itage Grants Program.