In May 1835 the three masted barque The Neva, sailing from Cork to New South Wales, Australia, hit a reef off King Island, Tasmania, and sank with the loss of 224 lives. Despite the great loss of life, the tragedy is barely remembered - these were "disposable souls" they were women, they were Irish and they were convicted criminals. Their crimes were often crimes of necessity which by todays standards seem trivial - stealing a pocket handkerchief, vagrancy, theft of a quilt (!)
This quilt commemorates the 178 convict women and their children who were drowned twelve and a half thousand miles from home.
The title "Women And Children First?" references the fact that senior crew members were first off the wreck, the women and children left disoriented (it was 5am), disorganised and panicking, to their fate.
More information: "The Wreck of the Neva" by Cal McCarthy & Kevin Todd published by Mercier Press, 2013.