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Eady Hart (1848–1931)

by Weston Bate

This article was published:

Eady Hart (1848-1931), dyemaker, was born on 28 December 1848 at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England, second daughter of Isaac Booth, hatter, and his wife Catherine Elvin, late Payne, née Rainals. Eady's paternal grandfather (Isaac) was a governor of the Bank of England, and an uncle Abraham Booth a distinguished chemist. Lured by gold, her family migrated to Victoria, probably arriving in the Francis Henty in May 1854. Eady became a dressmaker. On 14 December 1876 at Wycliff Church of England, Learmonth, she married English-born William Hart, later an engineer with the Ballarat Gas Co. They had four sons and four daughters before he deserted her.

After her children had grown up, Eady augmented her pension with sewing and millinery and by fostering four girls and two boys; they thought this tiny, gifted woman 'one in a million'. Thriftily, using potatoes, she created a blancmange-like breakfast food. She moved often at Ballarat, working also as a taxidermist. Creative, energetic and well organized, she found time to work for the war effort during World War I, in which two of her sons were severely wounded. Experimenting with natural products, Eady made firelighters from the pulverized trunks of grass trees (Xanthorrhoea australis, then known as 'blackboys'). The children hawked them, snowball size, in packs of a dozen. But her great success came from experimenting with natural dyes. Grass trees, when boiled with washing soda and lime, produced a brilliant gold dye, while the various parts of other indigenous plants added a great range of colours.

From 1914 to 1919 Eady struggled with the formalities involved in patenting her natural processes—others used poisonous chemicals. She hoped to provide employment at Ballarat, especially for returned soldiers, but was frustrated when a supporter, who had joined herself to the patent application, foiled attempts to form a company. Meanwhile, on her kitchen stove Eady perfected Hart's Royal Dyes and in October 1921 mounted a sensational public display of soft greys, glowing yellows, a strong black and a wonderful henna. Articles in Work and Energy (England) and the London Daily Express attracted attention. By then, patents had been achieved in Australia, England, India and the United States of America. When entrepreneurs approached her about floating a company, and Ballarat identities offered support, Eady mortgaged her house, formed a syndicate and built a substantial laboratory at Canadian Gully to demonstrate the practicality of her process. Hart's Australian Dyes was incorporated late in 1921, and a big demand for shares followed a display on many fabrics of colours more natural and flower-like than those of rivals. Later, on Mair Street, a factory was built with the hope of reducing German dominance of the Australian market.

Despite technical success, the company failed. Although Eady won awards at the British Empire Exhibition, London, in 1924, she was ruined. An earlier fear that she would end up in a charitable institution, like many inventors, proved accurate. She died on 28 February 1931 at Ballarat District Hospital and was buried in the new Ballarat cemetery. Her eight children and six foster children survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Bate, Lucky City (Melb, 1978)
  • Ballarat Courier, 26 Oct 1921, p 2, 21 Nov 1921, p 2, 17 Dec 1921, p 2, 22 Dec 1921, p 2, 10 July 1922, p 2, 13 July 1922, p 2, 15 July 1922, p 2, 18 July 1922, p 2, 27 July 1922, p 2
  • E. Hart’s specimens and scrapbooks (Gold Museum, Sovereign Hill, Victoria)
  • family information.

Citation details

Weston Bate, 'Hart, Eady (1848–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Booth, Eady

28 December, 1848
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England


28 February, 1931 (aged 82)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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