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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Seminar Autumn 2019:  Program and registration now available

Topic:  The Anson and the Probation System

Date: 5th May, 2019.  Venue: Hobart Town Hall
Admission Tickets $50 available through Trybooking

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.


From the Shadows upcoming fundraising events:

Colonial Dance Postponed until later in the year.

For further information visit the From the Shadows website at https://fromtheshadows.org.au


Book review

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.

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: info@fromtheshadows.org.au

You can follow From the Shadows on Facebook.


Save The Dates:

2019 5th May Autumn Seminar: The Anson and the Probation System

20th October

Spring Seminar:  Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum




Recent Updates

  • 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!

  • The Ships' Surgeons  - Edward Caldwell. The voyage of the East London 1843.  Contributed by Colleen Arulappu (18/03/2019).
  • Ships - Westmoreland 1836 (contributed by Colleen Arulappu 28/02/2019).  The medical journal has a long sick list where the surgeon recorded every case of constipation and headache. There was only one death from among the women, case 39; an autopsy was carried out and an account of the findings included in the journal.  One woman, case 35, was treated with a very unusual remedy for her debility, while case 46 was a concealed pregnancy with the birth taking place around midnight in the water closet.