Jane Smith was convicted of theft at Knutsford, Cheshire, England, on 7 January 1846 and sentenced to transportation for seven years.[1] She was a sixty-five-year-old widow with five children. Unwell on arrival at Hobart, she was taken immediately to the hospital and, as a result, very few personal details were entered on her convict records. Of particular relevance to her story is the fact that her native place was never recorded and the lack of this piece of information makes researching her life difficult. Compounding the difficulty are her very common surname and the knowledge that, before she was transported, she is known to have used a number of aliases including ‘Margaret Wallace’, ‘Ann Jones’ and ‘Ann Smith’. It is even possible that ‘Jane Smith’ was not her real name. It had been as ‘Margaret Wallace’ that, four years before the theft that had led to her transportation, she had committed an unusual offence against the Registration Act by falsely registering the deaths of children for monetary gain in the form of sympathetic donations. Sadly, her life in the colony was short. In March 1853, just weeks after the completion of her term of transportation, she passed away at Hobart. She had done nothing out of the ordinary and, apart from occasional episodes of drunkenness, had not troubled the colonial authorities. It is likely, however, that she will be long remembered for the poignancy of her last recorded words, ‘I want to go home’ - a sad lament which was undoubtedly expressed by many of the 13,500 (approx.) other women who were sent as prisoners to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) between 1812 and 1853. In Jane’s case, regrettably, there is still uncertainty about where ‘home’ was.

This is her story:

 

[1] Conduct record: CON41-1-10, image 133; indent CON15-1-3, image 344; description list CON19-1-5; police No: 800; FCRC ID: 11016.

 

In itself, the story of Mary Smith is unremarkable but it highlights a serious problem that existed in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) in the first half of the nineteenth century – that is, the common but very dangerous practice of giving infants opium-based preparations to pacify them. In July 1829, Mary had been convicted of theft at Norwich, England, and sentenced to transportation for seven years.[1] She arrived at Hobart per Eliza III (2) in February of the following year, Upon arrival, she was described as a thirty-year old widow and a ‘cripple’.[2] Assigned to free settlers as a ‘housemaid’ between 1831 and 1835, she was returned to the authorities on three occasions when, because of her physical disability, she was unable to do the work required of her. In 1835, she married former convict John Cawthorne (Medina, 1825) and, in March 1836. gave birth to a son, also named John. When the child died suddenly eleven months later, suspicion fell upon the parents. A subsequent inquest cleared both Mary and John of any deliberate wrong-doing. In doing so, it helped to raise public awareness of the too-easy availability of opium-based concoctions and of the often poorly-educated and ill-trained people who prepared them and advocated their use.   

This is Mary’s story …

 

[1] Conduct record: CON40-1-9, image 83; description list; CON19-1-2, image 354; police number: 166; FCRC ID: 4230.

[2] CON40-1-9, image 83.

 

Mary Ann Stewart arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) as a convict aboard Elizabeth and Henry (3) on 30 June 1848.[1] She was twenty years old. On 23 July of the previous year, she had been convicted of an assault and robbery in Edinburgh, Scotland, and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. That crime was not her first. She had been a troubled and troublesome young woman in Scotland and had already served a number of short gaol terms. In VDL, she was just as troublesome. During the years of her penal servitude, she fell foul of the law continually. While many of her offences were relatively minor in nature – being drunk, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and so on - some were serious and she was punished for them by being confined for lengthy periods at the Cascades Female Factory. She married twice in the colony but neither marriage seems to have brought her happiness. There is no record of her having had children. There is considerable uncertainty about her circumstances in her final years as a prisoner. A note on her conduct record, dated February 1857 – four years after transportation of convicts to VDL had come to an end – seems to indicate that the unexpired portion of her original sentence was to be remitted but there is some doubt about whether this actually happened. The last entry on her conduct record – a charge of disturbing the peace – is dated 10 August 1858. She was then about thirty years old. What happened to her after that remains a mystery. The date and place of her death have not yet been located.

This is Mary Ann’s story:

 

[1] Conduct record: CON 41/1/17, image 146; Description List: CON19/1/6, image 120; Indent: CON15/1/4, image 318/319; Police Number 805; FCRC ID: 4394.

 

Elizabeth Surridge (aka ‘Emma Surrage’) had a shocking childhood.[1] The daughter of a notorious thief, she grew up in Wapping, one of the poorer parts of London. In 1847, at the age of twelve, she was convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation for ten years but pardoned because of her age. She was sent to live at London’s Refuge for the Destitute but two years later she was convicted of theft again and once more sentenced to transportation for ten years. This time the sentence was carried out. She arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard Baretto Junior on 25 July 1850. In the colony, she led a remarkable life. Often in trouble with the law, she was gaoled several times. In 1859, she married former convict Samuel Longbottom and gave birth to a number of children before her husband deserted her, forcing her to support herself. In 1870, she sought a divorce – a rare and bold thing for a woman to do at that time - in order to protect her assets from creditors who might have wished to claim upon Longbottom. In 1871, now calling herself ‘Elizabeth Kenworthy’, she applied successfully for the license of the Golden Cross Hotel in Murray Street, Hobart. It was another audacious thing for a young woman to do – especially one who not only had a convict past but was also without the support of a male. That venture, however, may not have been a happy one and within a year or two she had relinquished the license. For the next thirty years, she lived quietly at New Town, Hobart, where she passed away in September 1907. She was in her early seventies.

This is Elizabeth’s story:   

 

[1] Conduct record: CON41-1-27, image 165; indent: CON15-1-6, images 216-217; description list: CON19-1-8, image 216, Police No: 940; FCRC ID: 2672

 

Convict Elizabeth SMITH had been in Van Diemens Land (VDL) for almost fifty years when she passed away at Hobart on 20 September 1868. In the fifteen years before her death, she had managed to stay clear of the law but her first three decades in the colony had been turbulent ones. As a prisoner she was troublesome. She was charged with drunkenness on a number of occasions. She kept bad company. While assigned as a servant to free settlers, she frequently absented herself without leave. She was disorderly, disruptive and rebellious - and, on at least one occasion, violent. She absconded once and was missing for ten days before she was apprehended. More seriously, she narrowly avoided being hanged for murder![1]

This is her story …

 

[1] Thirty-one prisoners named ‘Elizabeth Smith’ were transported as convicts to VDL between 1812 and 1853.  Two of them arrived on Morley in 1820. This Elizabeth Smith has been given ‘Identifier 2’. Upon arrival at Hobart, she was allocated Police Number 27; see CON40/1/9, Image 14.

 

 

 


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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].