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Sarah Cobcroft 1856

by Joseph Backler

Sarah Cobcroft was born in 1772 and came to Sydney as a free settler in 1790, probably following her convict partner John Cobcroft. Becoming prominent and respected Hawkesbury settlers, the couple successfully worked their land grants in Wilberforce, and Sarah became the local midwife. Sarah and John married in 1842 to ensure the orderly dispersal of their inheritance. Sarah stipulated that her inheritance was for the education of her grandchildren. Sarah herself was illiterate.

This was possibly the first portrait commissioned by the Cobcrofts. People with experience in commissioning portraits generally chose artists who would flatter them — it is unlikely that a middle-class patron would have accepted such an honest portrait. Backler’s clients were all successful upper working-class or lower middle-class workers.