Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Sweetheart ring which belonged to Muriel McPhee


On display

Sweetheart ring which belonged to Muriel McPhee

Object information


Muriel McPhee kept two photographs and two rings on her dressing table. One photograph was of her brother Bill and the other was a portrait of an unknown AIF soldier. This is one of the rings that she kept on her dressing table. It is known as a sweetheart ring and was a popular way of showing patriotism. It was often given by soldiers as a gesture of love and remembrance to their loved ones. It is decorated with the colour patch of the 41st Australian Infantry Battalion and is thought to have been a gift from McPhee's fiancé.

Physical description

A gold sweetheart ring decorated with the patch of the 41st Australian Infantry Battalion (AIF). The flat circular setting is inlaid with a design in white, blue and black.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of a number of objects relating to the life of Muriel McPhee (1899 -1986). These include shoes, a hat and hatbox, gold bracelet and ring, mourning brooch, WWI era cards and photographs, lamp, women's clothing and undergarments, stockings, gloves, handmade post-partum abdominal binder and breast-feeding camisole, grocers invoices and hand-embroidered doily.

Between 1916 and 1918, Muriel McPhee made a collection of clothes and household items, termed a 'trousseau', in preparation for her expected wedding and subsequent married life. Tragically, Muriel's 'sweetheart' was killed during World War 1, robbing her of her dreams of love, marriage and children. In keeping with post-WWI mourning customs, which were marked by stoicism and reserve, Muriel wore black clothing and accessories and kept mementoes such as photographs and a ring as constant reminders of her loss and grief. Like many bereaved young rural women, the loss of her 'young man' resulted in Muriel taking on an increasing burden of farm work, which restricted her access to further education and social opportunities. At the same time, she strove through her personal appearance to meet social expectations of femininity, modesty and sexual attractiveness and contributed to community solidarity through her sustained friendships with close friends and neighbours.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information

Back to top