FCRC Seminar 2022

Presented in partnership with the School of Humanities, University of Tasmania


This seminar focussed on the very youngest of the female convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land – those aged 16 and under. Presentations examined their origins, their convict experience and the lives that they built post-sentence.


Held on Sunday, 1st May 2022

Venue: Stanley Burbury Theatre, University of Tasmania.


9.15   Welcome from the President of the FCRC, Dianne Snowden

Official opening by the Hon. Elise Archer, Attorney General and Minister of the Arts

Session 1:

Margaret Dimech:   Girls interrupted: transported to VDL before reaching adulthood.

Dianne Snowden:   'This wasted child’: the youngest of the young

Kristyn Harman:   A ‘female of dissolute habits’? Mary Jane Dougherty’s  life in Ireland, Van Diemen’s Land and Victoria c. 1829 – 1855

Session 2:

Don Bradmore:   Convict sisters – Margaret and Ann Richardson

Colette McAlpine:   I can almost touch the convict system: Selina Langley & Sarah Ann French 

Dee Hoole, University of Aberdeen, Scotland:   Keynote presentation: Grace McIntosh: an Aberdeen Quine

Dr Kristyn Harman and Dr Kate Bagnall:   UTAS Courses to tempt history enthusiasts

Special presentation:

Richard Tuffin, historical archaeologist:   Where we once lived: recreating past environments to understand past Tasmanian lives

Session 3:

Maureen Mann:   Girls who wandered over city and sea and land

Tom Dunbabin:   Convict girls transported in the 1830s

Alison Alexander:   Summary and conclusion


Recordings of the 2022 seminar program






Two hundred years ago, the Morley sailed from London to Hobart Town. This was the first time that convict women were sent to Van Diemen’s Land directly from England. The convict women on the Morley arrived at a time before the Hobart Town Female Factory was established, raising the question of how they were managed. The Morley disembarked 50 of its cargo of 121 women; the reminder sailed to Sydney. This pattern of shared voyages continued for some time and it was not until the Providence in 1826 that a female convict ship disembarked its entire shipment of convict women in Hobart.
Our Seminar for 2021 (cancelled in 2020) explored the experience of those convict women who came directly to Hobart Town and compare it with those who came via Sydney. Why was the system changed? What impact did it have on the lives of the convict women?  


Seven of the presentations were audio recorded.  If you would like access to listen to these, please email us.


Session 1

Dianne Snowden:  An overview of the early years

John Ewington:  Catherine Tobin: notorious strumpet and dangerous girl? No!

Alison Alexander:  Maria Lord: convict, entrepreneur and governor’s lady

Session 2

The Morley was the first ship to bring female convicts direct to Van Diemen’s Land

Elaine Crawford:  The voyage of the Morley, part one

Rhonda Arthur:  The voyage of the Morley, part two  (read by Colette McAlpine)

Dianne Lowe:   Hobart Town and Sydney: a comparison of the lives of Morley women (pdf file of slides available on request)


John Stephenson:  Virtual Hobart Town: a digital exploration of the convicts’ new home


Session 3

Don Bradmore:  The shocking ordeal of Johanna Lynch (read by Wendy Donnelly)

Graeme Boxhall:  Maria Allen: assigned to Sarah Island – twice


The Anson and the Probation System

held on Sunday 5th May, 2019

at the Hobart Town Hall, Macquarie Street

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.

Session 1:

The Anson and its cargo of convicts – Maree Ring

Were the blokes better off? A comparison of the conditions at the female vs. male convict probation stations in Van Diemen's Land – Robyn Everist  (In Powerpoint Presentation format, available on request as a PDF).

Philippa Bowden, Matron of The Anson – Alison Alexander

Session 2:

Anne, Mary and Sarah, starting life in Tasmania on the Anson – Helen Howarth

Catherine Wallace and the Fair Maids of Perth – Gordon Cleary

'It was in the family': the story of Rebecca Jackson – Sue Wyatt

Session 3:

Mrs Meredith preferred ‘Anson girls’ – Alice Hodgson

Fr Cotham, Catholic priest to the Anson convicts – Joanna Vials, read by Dianne Snowden


Topic: "A more hopeless class of subjects?"

Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum


Held on Sunday 20th October, 2019 at the Hobart Town Hall.

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)

This seminar explored the lives of convict women admitted to the New Norfolk Asylum. Presentations included:

Session 1

The New Norfolk Asylum: an overview – Dianne Snowden

Women convicted at Liverpool and admitted to NNA – Stephanie McComb  

Mary Ann Lowe – a convict – Margaret Schmidt

Session 2

Balancing silent treatment and silent histories – Catherine Rees

The Last Ladies – Chris Woods

Apprehended in Liverpool Street: Female delinquency and madness in the Van Diemen’s Land colony – Honey Dower

Session 3

Deaths at the New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane – Leonie Mickleborough

Solitary confinement exposure and psychiatric admission rates – Hamish Maxwell-Stewart




A Great Blessing? Convict Women and Orphan School Children

To mark the 190th anniversary of the Orphan School, the Spring 2018 seminar was held jointly by the Female Convicts Research Centre and the Friends of the Orphan Schools, Sunday 28th October, 2018 at the Orphan School, St. John's Avenue, New Town.


Session 1: The Early Years.

1828: Ann Solomon – ‘Three children at the Orphan Schools’ [Craig Mackie]

Orphan School to female factory [Geoff Mitchelmore]

Euphemia Lawson; Three generations of convict and orphans [Andrew Cocker]

Session 2: Life in the Orphan Schools

Izod King [Jann Niven]

The underfed children of Bridget Norton [Jennifer Jacobs]

Security to destitution [Petrina Osborne]

Session 3: The Final Years

Later lives of the orphan children [Maureen Mann]

Second Generation Orphans: Isabella Hutchinson’s children [Caroline Haigh]




Please acknowledge our work, should you choose to use our research.  Our work may be subject to copyright therefore please check our Copyright Policy, and Disclaimer policy.

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].