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.




Search the Female Convicts in Van Diemen's Land Database

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Convict Lives



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Spring Seminar, 20th October 2019:  Call for papers

Topic: "A more hopeless class of subjects?": Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum

In 1859, the Commissioners of the Hospital for the Insane at New Norfolk wrote, ‘It must be borne in mind that a large majority of the patients … confined in the asylum have been of the convict class, the offspring of diseased parents, inheriting in very many cases a defective intellect, brought up from the earliest childhood in misery and vice, and leading in after years a life of sensual debauchery and crime, resulting in enfeeblement alike of body and mind – a more hopeless class of subjects it would be impossible to collect together in one institution’ (cit Gowlland, Troubled Asylum, p.54)

Our next seminar will explore the lives of convict women admitted to the New Norfolk Asylum: why were they admitted? How long were they there? How many died there? What do we learn about the treatment and institutionalisation of convict women from their time in the Asylum? We are also interested in hearing about those convict women who worked at the Asylum.

Would you like to give a 15-minute paper on any aspect of the experience of convict women at the New Norfolk Asylum?  If you are interested, please contact Robyn Everist at submissions@femaleconvicts.org.au by 20th June, 2019.

Registrations for the seminar will open late July 2019.  Venue will be the Hobart Town Hall.

New Norfolk Asylum 1868


Bonds of Friendship by Leonie Fretwell

The Friendship departed England in July 1817 with a contingent of female convicts on board. 

Forty-three female convicts were assigned to New South Wales and fifty-six female convicts were transferred from the Friendship to the Duke of Wellington, to be conveyed to Hobart Town.

Leonie Fretwell has extensively researched the Friendship, compiling accounts of the female convicts on board.  Leonie has tried, as far as possible, to include something about the women and their immediate family prior to their trials, and on their own families once they had arrived to serve their sentences. For some, post-arrival, there is very little to go on. For others their accounts and, importantly, the stories of the men with whom they chose to associate, are more comprehensive.

Leonie’s work on the Friendship’s Van Diemen’s Land contingent can be read at https://fretwelliana.com/friendship-female-convicts/the-convicts/van-diemens-land-contingent/

Leonie points out that her website is a work in progress.


Save The Dates:


20th October

Spring Seminar:  "A more hopeless class of subjects?": Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum



Whats new?

Recent Updates

  • The Ships' Surgeons  -  David Thomson - the voyages of Eliza III 1830 and New Grove 1835. (Contributed by Colleen Arulappu 11/06/2019).
  • Convict Stories - Maria Louisa Williams (Swinchatt), ship Mary III 1831 updated by Sue Swinchatt (3/06/2019).
  • Ships - Women who had Children on the Margaret 1842 - 1843.  Contributed by Jan Westerink 17/05/2019).
  • The Ships' Surgeons  - John Grant Stewart.  The voyage of the Nautilus 1838 (contributed by Colleen Arulappu 15/05/2019)
  • Ships - Royal Admiral 1842.  Surgeon's Journal contributed by Rhonda Arthur 9/04/2019). 

    John R Roberts was surgeon superintendent. Many had travelled distances by train and arrived with only the clothes they were wearing having been told at the prisons that they would be confiscated or destroyed. Two women with chronic diseases died. There were seven births but five infants died. Four matrons and a Governess, who wore a whistle suspended from her neck, regulated all movements and woe betide anyone who misbehaved – the punishments are set out in General Remarks. The ship put in at the Cape of Good Hope for supplies and although the voyage took a further seven weeks, the surgeon said ‘no cases of any importance occurred’ – except a mutiny!