Women of the Bounty

In 1789 one of the most famous mutinies in western naval history occurred. A ship named The Bounty, captained by William Bligh, experienced a bloodless and effective mutiny, which ended with Bligh and his supporters deposited into a small dinghy.
The root of the mutiny lay deep, but one of the instigating factors was an extended six month layover at Tahiti, during which the men of the Bounty struck up many short lived friendships and indulged in many of the luxuries available to them. Afterwards Bligh could not reconcile the discipline of the British Navy with the freedom the crew had enjoyed in Tahiti, and was soon deposed.
Historians and artists have debated the morality of William Bligh and mutineer leader Christian Fletcher, but that isn’t the focus of this exhibition.
In fact the only reason to mention the Bounty at all is so that you might understand how these mutineers returned to Tahiti, and why they might have been able to use the authority of the ship and their connection with William Bligh to convince several Tahitian Women and men to come with them to Pitcairn Island, a then uninhabited place far from the grasp of the British Navy.
Many other works of history and fiction have documented the fates of these men, and the consequences that some were forced to meet and that others avoided.
There are far fewer accounts about the women who accompanied the mutineers, who bore their children, suffered their abuses and helped to nurture Pitcairn Island into its future form. And so it is our aim to examine their role in the founding of Pitcairn Island and the ways in which they shaped its’ development and evolution.
We will establish a basic timeline of events, so that you might better understand the facts of history as they stand, and be able to apply the general details of the narrative to the other exhibits. We will also examine the Tapa cloth in detail, and explore its place in Pitcairn Island and its significance in broader pacific history. You will also be able to listen to an interview given by contemporary residents of Pitcairn Island, and to hear from the women of Pitcairn themselves what it means to be a resident of the island.
And finally, we will give you a crash course in Historiography, and teach you how to apply narratives of history to physical objects rather than literary sources, so that you might better understand how to analyse history.
This won’t be the last word on the subject, and it is our hope that this is the first of many examinations on the Women of the Bounty. And through this exhibition we might understand better how women are portrayed in historical accounts, and how we might focus on them. From its beginning to the present day, Pitcairn Island wouldn’t be the same without the often opposing forces of European colonisation and Tahitian culture, and now we get to see this clash up close.

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