By Gregory Burn
Rebecca Gentles, my great- great grandmother, was sentenced to 7 years in April 1835, by the Stirling (Scotland) Court of the Justiciary for stealing two shawls. The Female Convict Research Center’s (FCRC) convict database shows her as 19 years old in October 1835 when she arrived in Tasmania. 
Rebecca did not attain a Level of Freedom until October 1845. The status awarded was Free by Servitude. The 10 years and 6 months between being sentenced and attaining a Level of Freedom was extremely rare (three standard deviations) for actual time served by convicts sentenced to 7 years. According to a statistical analysis undertaken to examine Rebecca’s history, the average time served by female convicts sentenced to 7 years was 5.0 years with a standard deviation of 1.63 years. Most achieved a Level of Freedom prior to 7 years. The statistical analysis concluded that less than 4% of female convicts sentenced to 7 years served longer than their full sentence. The fact that Rebecca served 10 years and 6 months is even more remarkable when it is compared to the results of a separate random sample of convicts sentenced to life for crimes that included murder and infanticide. They rarely served a full life sentence, achieving a Level of Freedom in an average of about 9 years and 6 months, about a year less than Rebecca served. The statistical analysis supporting these results is presented in the Appendix at the end of this narrative. As reviewed in the Appendix, Rebecca serving over 10 years on a sentence of 7 years was a “three standard deviation event” for female convicts. This reference describes an event that can be expected to occur only 0.003% (1/3 of 1%) of the time.
Read Rebecca Gentles story (pdf)
1 FCRC database records. LIB TAS: CON 19/1/13 Description List of Female Convicts
2 FCRC database records. LIB TAS. CON 40. Convict Registers for Female Convicts