n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - The users of lace : a socio-political case study

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1020-1491



Florence Phillips (1863-1940), wife of Randlord Lionel Phillips, is remembered for founding the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) in 1910. The British social activist Emily Hobhouse (1860-1925) is remembered for exposing conditions in the concentration camps for Boer women and children during the South African War (1899-1902). What is less well known is that social reconstruction initiatives using arts and crafts ideals devolved from the mother country, were started by both women in the post-war period, and that they both used lace as part of their plans. In this article, I explore the backgrounds of these two socially-diverse women, their differing perceptions of lace, and how they used lace to their own ends. Emily planned to use lace-making, along with spinning and weaving, to build up destitute farm communities by teaching handcrafts to young Boer women. Florence planned to start an educational museum with an affiliated art school, in which handcrafts like lace could serve as teaching examples. Emily's lace plans were short-lived. Florence failed to achieve an art school and her donation of lace was neglected in favour of Johannesburg Art Gallery's fine art collection. Towards the end of the twentieth century, however, its aesthetic worth began to be realised.

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