Johanna Taylor was one of 13,500 (approx.) women who were transported as convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) between 1812 and 1853.[1] All of the women are important and every one of them deserves to be remembered. The stories of their lives are all different. A few are joyous, most are heart-wrenching, some downright tragic. Some of the women will be remembered for new crimes committed in the colony, some because of the way in which they resisted the cruel treatment of the colonial authorities, and some because they did their best to escape the often-harsh manner in which they were treated by the free settlers to whom they were assigned as servants. Others are of women who were pleased to be away from the abject poverty in which they had lived before their convictions and transportation, who made the most of their opportunities, who saw their servitude as a means of changing their condition, who became model citizens and made laudable contributions to the development of their new country. Lamentably, Johanna Taylor was not one of the latter group. Just twenty-two years of age when she arrived in VDL on Mexborough in December 1841, she had been found guilty of theft in her native Cork, Ireland, earlier that year. It was not her first offence and she had been sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Although troublesome at times in VDL, she did nothing that was particularly unusual or bad. In 1846, she had married and, later, had left the colony, probably with her husband, to reside in the neighbouring colony of Victoria. Little is known about the way she lived there but it is thought that her life must have been a difficult one. Described as ‘idle and disorderly’ and ‘a vagrant’, and listed as one who had been in-and-out of prison for the previous six years, she passed away at the Melbourne Gaol in 1889. She was sixty-five years old. What adds poignancy to her story - and certainly makes her memorable - is one of several petitions forwarded on her behalf to the authorities in Ireland whilst she was awaiting transportation in 1841. Whereas most petitions for prisoners who had been sentenced to transportation pleaded for clemency, this one, written by the step-mother with whom Johanna had lived at one time in Cork, begged that the powers-that-be show her no mercy whatsoever, that they send her far, far away and that they never allow her to return.  

This is Johanna’s story:  

 

[1] Conduct record: CON40-1-10, image 127; description list: CON19-1-3, image 82; police no: 184; FCRC ID: 9249.

 

 

 


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].