What a wonderful resource "Womans Hour" can be. Without it I would not have found out about Anne Tree's death in August. She founded the charity Fine Cell Work, which allows prisoners (male and Female) to engage in the skilled and engrossing work of making artefacts -- cushion covers, rugs, wall hangings -- enabling them to earn a decent wage and help ease their pathway back in to the family and community. Do take a look at the story for yourself.
The same radio source also brought me this story of needle power. In County Down an exhibition of bonnets is to be held, each piece of stitchery commemorates the name of a female convict. The vast majority of these women's crimes was stealing food for their families.
It can be all to easy to sentimentalise the past, but nothing has touched me so much in a long time as the tokens left by mothers with their babies. Imagine the tiny transparent bonnet dating back to 1753, the only tangible link of one such babe to its mother. An exhibition of tokens, "Threads of Meaning is being held until 6th March 2011 at the Foundlings' Museum.