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A stereotype which has persisted about female convicts since the days of transportation is that they were all prostitutes.
There are several ways of determining if female convicts were prostitutes prior to transportation. Gaol reports sometimes noted that a female convict was a prostitute. More commonly, however, the comment "on the town" was noted on the indent and/or conduct record with the amount of time spent working as a prostitute "on the town" recorded. It must be noted, however, that sometimes "on the town" simply meant that the woman was living on the parish.
For Irish convicts, those convicted of vagrancy were generally working as prostitutes—women could not be convicted of prostitution, but in Ireland they could be convicted of vagrancy, and this law was often used to arrest and charge prostitutes.
Depending on when a ship arrived and where the convicts on board came from, the proportion of convicts who had worked as prostitutes prior to transportation varied, as shown below.
|Ship||% of Convicts
"On the Town"
|% of Convicts Charged with Vagrancy
(ships from Ireland only)
|Arabian 1847||40 %||12 %|
|Atwick 1838||29 %||n/a|
|Australasia 1849||20 %||0.5 %|
|Elizabeth & Henry 1847||32 %||n/a|
|Garland Grove 1841||26 %||n/a|
|Harmony 1829||43 %||n/a|
|Rajah 1841||26 %||n/a|