Mrs Dance strikes the first cut: Visual storytelling and girlhood

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This paper takes its title from the oil painting by George Pitt Morison held in the collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, called '12 August 1829. The Foundation of Perth. Mrs Dance strikes the first cut to mark the founding of Perth'. As a young girl in rural Western Australia I transformed Mrs Dance, the boat captain's wife, into the first West Australian feminist. My unsophisticated mind inexplicably linked the image of Mrs Dance with the feminist sticker my father had put on our refrigerator in the mid-1970s. This painting provides an example of how visual representations of historic moments work to both open out and close down thinking about history in a process that Martine Joly describes as 'the force of the image'. In discussing my girlhood response to this image, this article will explore how visual representations impact upon the storytelling of history and on both individual and national identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-541
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Historical painting
  • Mrs Helena Dance
  • Race
  • The 'force of the image'
  • Visual representation
  • Western Australian childhood,1970s


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