Written by Senior Curator of Social History, Mark Clayton
In 1988 the Queensland Museum was gifted a collection of twenty-eight purple Anzac Day ribbons documenting Miss Jean Hardie’s [almost] unswerving attendance at the nation’s annual day of commemoration.
The purple Anzac Day ribbon, which first appeared in 1916, is thought to be one of the earliest known commercially-produced commemorative items associated with Anzac Day. Although there have been numerous stylistic variations since then, the rectangular form and colouring – have persisted for the past hundred years.
The symbolism for the purple ribbon is thought to have been borrowed from South Australia where Anzac Day was first commemorated on 13 October 1915. Three months earlier, on 2 July 2015, South Australia’s Cheer-Up Society had also instigated Violet Day as “a day of sentiment” when “it is hoped that every man, woman, and child in South Australia will wear violets out of respect to the brave lads who have fallen at the Dardanelles. No flower could more fittingly symbolize the love of Australians for the soldiers who have sacrificed all for their country’s honour. Enthusiasm for Violet Day spread quickly throughout the eastern states.
Remarkable both for its comprehensiveness, and uniqueness, the collection inevitably invites some questioning of the motives that might have compelled Mis Hardie to make the same annual pilgrimage for more than quarter of a century?
Jean Hardie’s father and brother had served with the Medical Corp during the 1914 – 1918 war, in both France and the Middle East, her brother (Captain John Hardie) having also been awarded the Military Cross. Both men survived the war without physical injury.
We know from contemporary newspaper accounts that Jean was actively involved throughout the war supporting various comfort, charity and welfare organisations in Brisbane. These included the Soldiers’ Sock Fund Fete, the Soldiers’ Comfort Fund (as convenor of the girls’ sub-committee), and the Church of England Help Society.
It’s known that she also helped convalescing soldiers at the former Kangaroo Point Military Hospital (later known as Yungaba), a confronting role which would have brought her close contact with hundreds of seriously damaged young men. This experience could help – in part – to explain her later devotion to Anzac Day, as might her published memoir, A Child of the Terrace.
Almost opposite the school (attended by Jean), at the corner of Albert Street, were dreadful tin shanties where veterans of the Crimean and Sudan Wars lived out their lives. Years later, the authorities tidied them and made them rain proof for these poor old soldiers.
Together, these insights paint the picture of someone who – from their earliest years – had been exposed and deeply affected by a succession of wars, and their aftermaths. Enough, perhaps, to want to put aside one morning every year?