The Female Convicts Research Centre promotes interest in the female convicts of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), by encouraging and facilitating research.
From 1803 to 1853, 12,500 female convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), as punishment for crimes, mainly theft. After serving their sentences they were released into the community. Their transportation left a lasting legacy.
The Female Convicts Research Centre encourages research into these female convicts, mainly through its database, website and twice-yearly seminars.
When you register with the FCRC, you gain access to our database where you will find information entered by our volunteers as we attempt to reconstruct the life course of each female convict.
We update this website and our database regularly and sometimes daily, as our volunteer transcribers continue to provide new information. Please bookmark this page and return soon.
From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from Beyond the British Isles
edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine.
Robyn Greaves. Transnational Literature Vol. 10 no. 2, May 2018.
Reading the stories in From the Edges of Empire as a whole gives a disquieting sense of how the British Empire, with its extensive colonies, affected the lives of people across the world with far-reaching consequences, helping shape the Australia we know today. Jan Richardson sums up the lives of these women: ‘from the small fragments that have been gathered piece-by-piece from around the world ... fascinating and heart-breaking stories are now revealed, encapsulating themes of poverty, crime, prostitution, bigamy, illegitimacy, insanity, slavery and emancipation’ (128). While the internet and digitisation of material have made information more accessible, tracing stories such as these is still a painstaking and time-consuming task, so we can be grateful to the contributors of this book, its editors and publisher, for making this research available to the public. I hope From the Edges of Empire is widely read and serves as a catalyst for the revelation of more forgotten stories such as those contained here.
Dr Robyn Greaves
Read the full review here.
Voices from the Orphan Schools. The Children’s Stories.
Dianne Snowden, Voices from the Orphan Schools. The Children’s Stories, [self-published] 2018.
Nearly 6,000 children, many the children of convicts, passed through the Orphan Schools from 1828 to 1879. This book reveals some of their stories.
‘Dianne Snowden has shed new light on an important part of Tasmania’s history, and brought to life stories which, though hitherto either unknown or long-forgotten, are part of our story’. —Saul Eslake, 28 October 2018.
Seminar Autumn 2019
Topic: The Anson and the Probation System
Date: 5th May, 2019. Venue: Hobart Town Hall
From 1844 until the end of transportation in 1853, female convicts were required to serve six months’ probation upon arrival In Van Diemen’s Land. This probation period was designed to teach convicts desirable skills, including reading, writing, ciphering (numeracy), needlework and domestic service. It was also designed to separate newly arrived convicts from the more hardened criminals in the female factories. When the probation period was completed, a convict became a probation pass-holder.
The HMS Anson arrived in Hobart as a male convict transport in 1844 and was subsequently refitted as a probation station for female convicts. It was then towed to New Town Bay and shortly after to Prince of Wales Bay, Risdon, near Hobart, where it was moored. Between 1844 and 1850, this hulk housed female convicts serving their six month probation period. Dr and Mrs Bowden were appointed to manage the Anson Probation Station. Women from the Woodbridge and the Angelina were among the first to be housed on the Anson. The Anson held from 250 to 520 women at any one time The Anson was dismantled in 1850 and the women were transferred to the Cascade Female Factory.
Registrations for the seminar will open early February 2019.
Change of Date for FCRC Autumn Seminar
The next seminar of the Female Convicts Research Centre will now be held on Sunday, 5th May, 2019. Venue will be the Hobart Town Hall.
White Rag Burning: Irish Women Committing Arson to be Transported
by Dianne Snowden
Between 1841 and 1853, nearly 250 women were transported from Ireland to Van Diemen’s Land for committing arson. During the Great Famine, the number of Irish women transported for arson increased dramatically. In comparison, only small numbers of other convicts were transported for arson.
Many of these Irish women committed arson in order to be transported. Why did these women commit arson and not some other crime? What led to the increase in numbers? Why didn’t the women simply emigrate if they wanted a better life? White Rag Burning reveals the answers to these questions and in doing so, tells the individual stories of the convict women.
The arsonists were poor and actively sought to change their circumstances and improve their conditions. This book looks at the Irish experience of the arsonists, when and where they were tried and their motivation in committing arson. The book follows them to Van Diemen’s Land and explores their colonial experience, when they were under sentence and when they were free.
The story of the Irish arsonists is a remarkable one, challenging the idea that Irish convict women were passive victims, particularly during the years of the Great Famine. Using original records, this study reveals the reality of convict life together with the legacy left by these women in Tasmania and beyond.Published by Forty South Publishing.
From the Shadows Inc.
Following on from the hugely successful Footsteps towards Freedom project, a new not-for-profit project, known as From the Shadows, has been established to raise funds for three statues by renowned Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie. Rowan created the Footsteps towards Freedom statues on Hobart’s waterfront, receiving global media attention. The newly commissioned statues will include two statues of children for the Orphan Schools in New Town and a female convict statue for the Cascades Female Factory. Three community organisations have been acknowledged as Foundation Supporters: the Female Convicts Research Centre, the Friends of the Orphan Schools and South Hobart Progress Association. The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) is committed to the project as a Foundation Sponsor.
Visit the From the Shadows website at https://fromtheshadows.org.au
Contact email address: email@example.com
You can follow From the Shadows on Facebook.
Save The Dates:
|2019||5th May||Autumn Seminar: The Anson and the Probation System
|Spring Seminar: Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum
- Petitions - Bridget Conlan/Hartigan per Earl Grey 1850 (20/01/2019).
- The Ships' Surgeons - John Patten (Persian 1827). Courtesy Colleen Arulappu (20/01/2019). James Patton summed up the voyage. “We have now been successful, through God’s assistance in carrying out all hands who embarked on board the Persian to Van Diemen’s Land without a death or casualty of any kind; although the situation of some was very critical, and I am not without hope that when the Prisoners are inspected they will be considered to be in as good health, as could be expected, when we take into our consideration the great length of the voyage, and a constant gale of wind from the Cape of Good Hope.”
- Petitions - Ann Foster per Kinnear 1848 (18/01/2019)
- Convict Lives - Genealogy: Jane Barrett per Mexborough 1841. In December 1840, the Dublin Monitor reported on an extraordinary case. A very ‘well dressed young woman and possessing considerable personal attractions’ was charged with stealing the property of Denis Hogan. The judge recognised her as Jane Barrett whom he had previously sentenced to 7 years’ transportation to New South Wales.
- The Ships' Surgeons -John Stephen Hampton of the Mexborough 1841 by Colleen Arulappu (21/12/2018).
John Stephen Hampton, surgeon superintendent on the Mexborough 1841, was a well-qualified man, awarded a medical diploma at Edinburgh in 1828, entered the navy as an assistant surgeon in 1829 and was promoted “on merit” to surgeon in 1834. His reputation was distinguished through his work in the prevention of cholera at the Plymouth dockyard. The Mexborough was his first appointment aboard a convict ship and his only voyage transporting females. He also served on the Constant, 1843, Dublin to Hobart and, the Sir George Seymour, 1845, Woolwich to Hobart and Port Phillip.
- Ships - Navarino 1841 (Courtesy of Rhonda Arthur 21/12/2018). James L Clarke replaced Edward Jeffrey as surgeon superintendent which followed some unrest among the women, though few details were given. He had not the slightest doubt from the description given by Mr Jeffrey, that the women from Millbank Penitentiary were very unsettled as a result of the transition from ‘the silent system’, to one where they were all of a sudden placed together, which he termed ‘the noisy system’. He considered this was ‘the sole cause of their riotous behaviour’. One woman with mania was sent back to the Penitentiary which induced three others to pretend madness in the hope of also being sent back. They started howling and singing hymns (excited after visits from the Quaker Ladies) and were punished by having their hair cut off, being shut up in a Box, put on a bread and water diet and placed on the black list to do all the dirty work. To add insult to injury their daily wine and lime juice sherbet of which they were very fond was also stopped.
- Ships - Platina 1837 (Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu 10/12/2018). The General Remarks section gives a comprehensive account of the voyage; each month is detailed as to illnesses, the weather at the time and its effects on the women’s health. The surgeon included some recommendations to improve ventilation on board with an extra instruction to prevent anything being passed up or down via the ventilation tubes. He wrote of one patient who swallowed a pin (case 6) and another who was successfully treated for a very nasty boil (case 14).