Elizabeth Hemblen was born in Bath, Somerset, England about 1824, the youngest of four children of Isaac and Mary Hemblen. Her mother died young and her father remarried in 1832 to Elizabeth Rose, with whom he had another four children.


Family stories passed down through the generations suggest that Elizabeth Hemblen did not get along with her step-mother, and rebelled. On 11 October 1841, 16 year old Elizabeth Emblin appeared before a judge at the Bath City Sessions, charged with larceny, for stealing a pair of boots. She was convicted and sentenced to one month in prison.


Elizabeth obviously fell in with bad company, as soon after her release from prison, she appeared before a judge at the Bath City Sessions on 29 December 1841, along with Mary Ann Elmes and Elizabeth Stokes, charged with stealing a frying pan worth 12 pence, property of William Pullen, on 20 November 1841. As all three of the accused had previous convictions, they were each sentenced to 7 years transportation.


This is Elizabeth's story.


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From a palace to penal servitude – could Martha ever have imagined this would be her fate? Having secured, at the time, what must have been considered a highly sought after position with English aristocracy, what circumstances inspired Martha to throw it all away by repeatedly stealing from her mistress? Did she think that being in the service of the diplomatic circle would provide her with immunity from prosecution? Surely, the fall from grace that found her in the confines of a convict ship with two hundred other prisoners headed for the antipodes must have been both devastating and frightening.


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Mary Ann Hunt was born in Hampshire New England[1] and arrived in Van Diemens Land in the August of 1850 after months at sea on board the convict transport ship Baretto Junior. [2]She was one of 186 female convicts destined to serve time for their convictions across the seas. Many of the women travelled with their young children and young two-year-old son George accompanied his mother.[3] Mary left behind her brothers George and James and sisters Eliza and Jane. [4]


This is a story like many others of the trials and tribulations of the stories of those convicted to transportation in the colonies. But 34 year old Mary Ann Hunt very nearly did not board the ship to sail to Van Diemen’s Land, albeit she had been convicted of a heinous crime.


This is her story:


[1] England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

[2] TAHO, CON41/1/27, Mary Ann Hunt Conduct Report

[3] ADM 101-007-06, Baretto Junior Ship’s Surgeon Report

[4] TAHO, CON41/1/27, Mary Ann Hunt Conduct Report

Between 1812 and 1853, 13,500 (approx.) women were transported as convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL). Most of them were young, poor and uneducated. Torn from their families and friends with little hope of ever being re-united with them, many lived wretchedly unhappy lives. Ill-treated by disdaining masters and mistresses to whom they were assigned as servants, humiliated and abused by cruel gaolers and subservient always to the whims and mandates of a patriarchal society, some made hasty marriages which they soon regretted. Others sought the companionship of unruly acquaintances and reverted to crime or turned to alcohol to ease the pain of their existence. In doing so, they were locked away in prisons for lengthy periods, lost whatever dignity remained to them, and died before their time in misery and poverty. There were still others, however, who were prepared to make the most of their changed circumstances and took the opportunity to make better lives for themselves than ever they could have hoped for previously. While a few went into business for themselves with great success, most became ordinary and peaceful citizens - good wives and mothers - and, in doing so, helped to forge a new nation. Among this latter group was Mary Harford who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard Royal Admiral in September 1842.[1] She was twenty-four years old and single. She married twice, first in VDL in 1845 and later in the neighbouring colony of Victoria after her first husband had passed away. She gave birth to seven children, lived a blemish-free, unostentatious but comfortable life and died at the age of sixty-seven, a much-loved and seemingly-contented woman. But who could ever have imagined that her life would have turned out so well? A year before her transportation, she had been convicted of stealing a watch from a man in a brothel - and then attempting to cut his throat! She had been sentenced to ten-years of penal servitude

This is Mary’s story:


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Hannah Heath was a fifty-two-year-old widow when she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) on 22 January 1839.[1] On 10 March 1838, she had been convicted of the murder by poisoning of her infant grandchild and sentenced to death. However, Lord John Russell, Britain’s Home Secretary, after receiving information about the case, including a report from the judge who had presided at her trial, saw fit to commute her sentence to transportation for life. While some of the 13,500 (approx.) women who were transported to VDL for infanticide in the years between 1812 and 1853 were indubitably guilty and deserved harsh punishment for the crime, Hannah appears to have been treated unjustly.[2] After the child had died, she had admitted to having given it ‘something from a vial’ in ‘the hope of doing it some good’ when it was ill. She had thought that the substance was a toothache remedy that her son had bought from a travelling ‘quack doctor’ some time earlier but it was discovered later that it was a corrosive acid that had been stored in the house in a similar vial. Neither vial had been labelled. The evidence indicates that she had always been a kind and caring mother and grandmother. It seems probable, therefore, that the child’s death was the result of a terrible accident rather than a case of a murder. In the colony, Hannah’s behaviour was excellent; she is known to have committed only one, quite minor, indiscretion. In 1844, she had married convict Thomas Judd (Augusta Jessie, 1834) and the pair seem to have lived peacefully together until Hannah herself passed away, at seventy-nine, in 1859. Torn from her loved ones for a crime of which she may not have been guilty, she had been exiled in VDL, without hope of a pardon, for twenty years.   

This is her story:


[1] Conduct record: CON40/1/6, image 27; description list: CON19/1/14, image 20; police no: 331; FCRC ID: 7942.

[2] The number of women transported to VDL for infanticide was relatively small; see Cowley, T., ‘Crimes of Transportation and Crime Families’ at https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/fcrc-seminars/research-seminars




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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].