Research seminars, now held yearly, are open to all members and to the general public.
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FCRC Seminar 2022: Young female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land
1st May 2022
Venue: Hobart Town Hall
Program and Registration available 1 February 2022
Many female convicts were under the age of sixteen. What was their experience of convict life? How did they cope, forcibly separated from their families and everything that was familiar? What was their post-sentence experience?
The next Female Convicts Research Centre seminar will focus on the experiences of young female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land.
Past Seminar Programs:
2021: The Early Years, 1803-1828 Open or Close
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 presentation were audio recorded. If you would like access to listen to these, please email us.
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
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
Don Bradmore: The shocking ordeal of Johanna Lynch (read by Wendy Donnelly)
Graeme Boxhall: Maria Allen: assigned to Sarah Island – twice
Spring 2019: Convict Women at the New Norfolk Asylum Open or Close
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:
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
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
Deaths at the New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane – Leonie Mickleborough
Solitary confinement exposure and psychiatric admission rates – Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Autumn 2019: The Anson and the Probation System Open or Close
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.
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
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
Mrs Meredith preferred ‘Anson girls’ – Alice Hodgson
Fr Cotham, Catholic priest to the Anson convicts – Joanna Vials, read by Dianne Snowden
Spring 2018: A Great Blessing? Convict Women and Orphan School Children Open or Close
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]
Autumn 2018: The Hobart Town Female Factory and the move to the Cascades, 1828 Open or Close
'The Hobart Town Female Factory and the move to the Cascades, 1828'
held Sunday 22nd April, 2018
at the Hobart Town Hall, Macquarie Street
An overview of the Hobart Town Female Factory – Dianne SnowdenThe buildings of the Hobart Town Female Factory – Robyn EveristSession 2:
Bond of Friendship - Female Convicts to Sydney prior to 1820 - by Leonie Fretwell, presented Caroline Haigh
From Factory to Frazer and back- Chris Leppard-Quinn
Escapees: The Women Who Got Away, December 5th, 1825 - Alex Wyld
A short walk to freedom: Ann Eccles' life in Van Diemen's Land. – Tom Dunbabin
Out of Town - James Parker
Spring 2017: Tales of the Unexpected Open or Close
Spring 2017: Tales of the Unexpected.
Online Audio files are available on our website for 8 of the presentations. To help us cover seminar costs, these will be made available to FCRC members at an introductory fee of $10. Please contact us by email if you are interested in listening to these presentations.
Session 1: Not your usual convict women
Leonie Mickelborough: Bodies from the grave
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart: Female Convicts Runaways
Ros Escott: Cross Dressing Convicts
Session 2: The young and the old
Alison Alexander: 'Very Decrepit": The grim fate of elderly convicts
Arthur Davidson presented by Lilian McDonald: Margaret Grey
Diane Snowden: ‘Expect the Unexpected: My Dear Father & Mother’
Session 3: Outside Van Diemen’s Land
Colette McAlpine: I want to go back to Tasmania
Cheryl Griffin: Jemimah Champion, Pioneer of Oregon
Tamsin O'Connor: Women at Morten Bay
Autumn 2017 - Convict Motherhood Open or Close
Sunday 7 May 2017
Hobart Town Hall
Session One: Mothers and Children
Lucy Frost: Motherhood under sentence: analysis
Dianne Snowden: Convict mothers accompanied by their children
Nicola Goc: ‘Deviant’ mothers in the Van Diemen’s Land convict system
Session Two: Birthing and Babies
Colette McAlpine: Convict Midwives
Jessica Walters: From the Crime Class to Confinement: giving birth in the Cascades Female Factory
Ros Escott: Infant feeding in the convict era
Robyn Everist : Mothering Denied – the development of infants when separated from their convict mothers
Session Three: Mothers on Convict Voyages
Colleen Arulappu: ‘I’ll take the two youngest’. Mothers from the East London convict ship
Meredith Hodgson: ‘It terminated fatally’: illness and death for mothers and children on the transport Anna Maria
Alison Alexander: Women who did not have children – why not?
Spring 2016 - Prologue: women's lives before transportation Open or Close
Prologue: women's lives before transportation
Sunday 23 October 2016
Hobart Town Hall, Macquarie Street
Session One: The situation in Britain
Janet McCalman: Analysis of the background of female convicts’ lives
Anna Jacobs: The reformers: Elizabeth Fry’s aims in aiding convicts
Stephen Lucas:The Irish legal system: was it particularly harsh to poor women? (based on his paper entitled Trials in Ireland of Female Convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land. The paper was published in the December 2016 edition of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Papers and Proceedings. http://www.thra.
Session Two: Group Crimes
Cheryl Griffin: Thieves from the Potteries (presented by Colette McAlpine).
Stephanie McComb: Female convicts from Liverpool
Lilian MacDonald: 'Circuit Journeys' (1889). A view from the bench.
Session Three: Enterprising female convicts
Donald Bradmore: Wicked Women: Females Transported to Van Diemen’S Land for Highway Robbery
Libby Prescott: Bigamists (One Husband Too Many…Female Convicts Transported from England for Bigamy)
Autumn 2016: Riot, repression and reform: the Cascades Female Factory Open or Close
Riot, repression and reform: the Cascades Female Factory
Sunday 24 April, 2016
Hobart Town Hall
10.15: Session One
Alison Alexander: The history of the Cascades Female Factory
Colette McAlpine: Life and Death at the Cascades – from the inquests of female convicts
Sally Rackham: Insights into the female convict system: the 1843 Inquiry into Female Convict Discipline
11.45: Session Two
Lucy Frost: One final attempt at a convict nursery: Yard 4 of the Cascades Female Factory
Dianne Snowden: Serving the poor: the Sisters of Charity at the Female Factory
Colleen Arulappu: A Voyage – a Riot – the Factory
2.15: Session Three
Brian Rieusset: The due course of the law
Robyn Everist: Comments from beyond the walls
Kevin Green: Treated like convicts: some immigrants’ experience of the Female Factory 1854–1856
Spring 2015: What the convict women brought with them—and what they left behind Open or Close
What the convict women brought with them—and what they left behind
Saturday 7 November 2015
Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Marieville Esplanade, Sandy Bay
Convict women sometimes brought tangible things with them on the voyage, money, bags of clothes, children. Some brought intangible baggage as well—the skills of a trade, a proficiency in writing, the songs they learned as children and the songs they sang in pubs. Some carried tattoos on their bodies, and some carried injuries and disease. As they disembarked, they left behind the worlds they had known. For some this meant mothers and fathers, husbands and children. For some it meant the workhouse, or life on the streets.
Janet McCalman: “Invisible burdens: mental and physical health”.
Lois Newham: ‘Tattoos written on their bodies’
Lilian Macdonald: ‘The town they left behind: woman convicts from the “Fair City of Perth”, Scotland'
Chris Leppard: ‘“There are besides many little articles too numerous and insignificant to be noted here”: understanding convict women through their 'checked in' luggage’
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, ‘Capital Offending: An Historical Audit of Convict Bank Accounts’
Trudy Cowley: ‘How did the pre-transportation trades of female convicts transfer to the colony of Van Diemen’s Land? (analysis of differences between trades named on embarkation lists with those on the appropriation lists)’
Don Bradmore: ‘Convict School Mistresses in Van Diemen’s Land’
Maureen Bransden: ‘Women Who Cared: convict nurses and midwives’
Tamsin O’Connor, ‘"Unpacking her Black Economic Bags": Smuggling, sly grog, sex and the price of gossip on the penal frontier. Female economic mobility and the penal station of Newcastle 1804-1822’
Jan Richardson: ‘Convict Women at Their Needle in Moreton Bay’
Autumn 2015: Succeeding in the regular economy: the aftermath of convict sentences Open or Close
Succeeding in the regular economy: the aftermath of convict sentences
Saturday 9 May 2015
Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (Bass and Flinders Room), Marieville Esplanade, Sandy Bay
Session 1: Marriage as an arbiter of success
- James Parker: Could marriage change convict women, as the authorities believed? Could it increase their economic security?
- Ros Escott: Far from Jane Austen's World: the importance of marrying well
- Jennifer Garvey: The Next Generation: a convict daughter makes good
Session 2: The up-and-down fortunes of publicans
- Alison Alexander: Women at the Bar: ex-convict publicans
- Meredith Hodgson: "I am still keeping the same house as when I last wrote I am keeping out of debt but saving no money"
- Ian Leader-Elliott: Colonially Convicted Innkeeper Turned Litigant: Catherine Connelly
Session 3: A land of opportunity?
- Doug Wilkie: The Adventures of a Brothel Keeper: Bad Girl Bess and Polly the Nipper
- Deb Norris: From Ireland to the Huon Valley of Van Diemen's Land: Ellen Talbot's contribution to building a community
- Fiona MacFarlane: What Lies Beneath: Some of the best discoveries require a little digging ... An archivist's journey of exploration through the records of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Spring 2014: Crime and Crime Families: relocation and reconnection Open or Close
Crime and Crime Families: relocation and reconnection
Saturday 15 November 2014
Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (Bass and Flinders Floor), Marieville Esplanade, Sandy Bay
Session 1: Female Convicts and their Crimes
- Trudy Cowley: Crimes of Transportation: findings from our female convicts database
- Hamish Maxwell-Stewart: Crime as a product of societal failure
- Melissa Fraser: Criminal Women? An exploration of petty session court records in 1860s Hobart
Session 2: Crime families by their descendants
- Elizabeth Friedrich: 'It was the taties that druv us to this country'—the story of Mary and Julia McCarthy
- Allison Ellett: Arsonists on the MIdlothian and Duke of Cornwall
- Yvonne Jackson: 'So Grave a Crime': redemption and legacy in Van Diemen's Land
Session 3: Families in crime
- Cheryl Griffin: Getting Rid of Problem Families: Mary Beacroft and her three sons
- Eilin Horvik: Josephine and Marcelin—'The Artful Dodgers' of Port Louis, Mauritius
- Colette McAlpine: The Mountains of Proctor's Road
- Bernadette Dewhurst-Phillips: 'O Lord, it is all over with us now': a story of three Marys
Autumn 2014: Voyages of Female Convict Ships Open or Close
Voyages of Female Convict Ships
Saturday 10 May 2014
Old Sunday School, St John's Park Precinct
- Trudy Cowley: A Statistical Overview of the Voyages
- Hamish Maxwell-Stewart: Female convict voyages: an overview
- Deborah Norris: Children on the voyages
- Colleen Arulappu: Five surgeons and their influence
- Stephen Lucas: Medical conditions experienced by female convicts
- Dianne Snowden: Developing skills on the voyage
- Peter MacFie and Hamish Pike provide music of the period
Session 3: Individual Voyages
- Trudy Cowley: A Statistical Overview of the Voyages
Spring 2013: From the Edges of the Empire: female convicts born or tried outside the British Isles Open or Close
From the Edges of the Empire: female convicts born or tried outside the British Isles
Saturday 9 November 2013
Penitentiary Chapel, corner Brisbane and Campbell Streets, Hobart
Feature article, Untold story of our deep convict past, in The Mercury (9 November 2013) about the seminar.
- Cheryl Griffin: Life on the edge: How six black women from the British Caribbean found themselves in New South Wales
- Jan Richardson: Stories from the Caribbean: The transportation of female convicts born in the West Indies to New South Wales in the 1830s
- Darryl Massie: Maria—from runaway slave to convict
- Maureen Mann: The Canadian Connection
- Alison Alexander: French women in the Antipodes
- Douglas Wilkie: Eugenie Caroline Lemaire: Woman of fashion and influence; or con-woman?
Tour of the Penitentiary Chapel
Session 3: 3 papers
- Eilin Hordvik: Policing in the Indian Ocean: Four women convicted to transportation on the Island of Mauritius
- Cassandra Pybus: From Mauritius to New South Wales: the childhood exile of Elizabeth and Constance
- Lucy Frost: Writing biographies for the website: the story of Mary Jane
Autumn 2013: Resilience? Open or Close
Saturday 11 May 2013
Old Sunday School, St John's Park Precinct
Report on the day by Alison Alexander.
First session: Traditional female methods of coping
- Alison Alexander: Marriage as a panacea
- Don Bradmore: Prostitution as a Response by Female Convicts to the Trauma of Transportation to Van Diemen's Land: Questions and Cases
- Norma Watt: Embroidering the Past
Second session: Escape through the mind
- Cyndy and Maureen Brandsden: Better or Worse
- Nicola Goc: Understanding Resilience through the Frame of Madness
- Tour of the Orphan School buildings with Joyce Purtscher
Third session: Desperate action
- James Parker: Keeping out of trouble
- Jan Richardson: Queensland's Female Convicts: tragedy and resilience
- Trudy Cowley: Self-Harm by Female Convicts: Is there any evidence for it?
Spring 2012: Women in a Man's World Open or Close
Women in a Man's World
Saturday 10 November 2012
Junior Medical Officers' Quarters, Port Arthur Historic Site
First session: Women in a man's world
- Meredith Hodgson: Caroline Leakey's account of convict women at Port Arthur
- Stephen Lucas: Female Convicts: Fertile Grounds for the Development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Robyn Everist: Un-natural Acts: The plight of lesbian convicts
Second session: Female convicts, their records and their masters
- Maureen Mann: Absent Without Leave: the Navarino (1841) experiences
- Deb Norris: Treatment of convicts by masters/gaps in records
- Brian Rieusset: "Lord Jesus, receive my soul": The life and death of Margaret Coghlin
- A Walking Tour with James Parker: Women and Children at Port Arthur
Third session: Lives of female convicts
- Hilary Jones: Eliza Stout: Murder or suicide? You decide ...
- Group of volunteers from the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site: Convict women assigned to Captain Haig
- Irene Schaffer: From finger tinker to first woman horse trainer in Van Diemen's Land
Autumn 2012: The Working Lives of Convict Women Open or Close
(held in conjunction with Runnymede as part of Tasmanian Heritage month)
Saturday 12 May 2012
'Runnymede', Bay Road, New Town, TAS
What did convict women actually do when they were assigned as domestic servants? Papers discussed many aspects of this fascinating topic.
- Meredith Hodgson: Maids of all work (paper available on request)
- James Parker: To The Tubs: The laundry as female punishment
- Gemma Webberly: 'I rise at dawn': Daily chores of a servant girl in a colonial homestead
- Tour of the convicts' working areas at 'Runnymede', conducted by Gemma Webberly
- Trudy Cowley: Trades, Skills and Occupations: A statistical analysis
- Robyn Everist: Heavy Metals, Herbs and Hope: Health care for convict women
- Deborah Norris: poem Accidental Housemaids
- Colette McAlpine: 'I will not have women of that kind in our house Robert': Convict governesses in Van Diemen's Land
- Dianne Snowden: Margaret Shaw of the 'Rajah'
- Alison Alexander: Roasting Jacks and Sugar Choppers: what convict women put up with in the kitchen
Spring 2011: Journeys: A Seminar Open or Close
Saturday 5 November 2011
Old Sunday School, Orphan School and St John's Precinct, New Town, TASA sentence of transportation became a sentence to travel as convict women journeyed from their places of trial across the world to Van Diemen's Land. Many had made significant journeys before their arrestts. After they arrived in Hobart Town, many travelled about the colony while they were under sentence. Once they were free to move where they liked, the emancipated women often set off yet again for somewhere new.
The seminar explored these journeys.Session 1—The Voyage Out
Session 2—People on the Voyage Out
- Trudy Cowley: A Statistical Overview of the Voyages
- Alison Alexander: The Voyage of the Henry
- Margaret Lindley: Nature, Quality and the Sailing of the Margaret
- Colette McAlpine: The Voyages of Women Convicted Across the Empire - available upon request
- Lucy Frost: Caring for the Children at Sea
- Meredith Hodgson: Steerage or Stay Behind
Session 3—Journeys Through Life
- Susan Hazell: The Journeys of Mary Carr Hobson
- Cheryl Griffin: Unintended Journeys: the life and crimes of Mary O'Neil
- Brian Rieusset: The Journeys of Mary Murphy
Autumn 2011: The Orphan Schools of Van Diemen's Land Open or Close
(held in conjunction with Friends of the Orphan Schools)
Saturday 9 April 2011
Old Sunday School, St John's Precinct, New Town, TASSession 1
- Andrew Cocker: A Very Bad Child: the Story of Sarah Briggs
- Lyn McLeavy: Ann Young and the aftermath of the Irish Famine
- Lucy Frost: John Offer’s flawed crusade for the Boys School, 1838-1839
- James Parker: "Captain Booth's Piccaninnies"
- Grant Finlay: Aboriginal Children at the Orphan Schools
- Toni Sherwood: Childhood outside the Orphan Schools in mid-nineteenth-century Van Diemen’s Land
- Rosie Davidson: "Faith, Funerals and Children at the Orphan Schools"
- Andrea Gerrard: "The Convict Stain: the story of three generations of the Quamby/Taylor Family"
- Joyce Purtscher: “The Orphan School Stigma”
Session 3: Getting the message out: a workshop on our websites and their potential uses
- Tour of the Orphan School site (Joyce Purtscher)
- Trudy Cowley (Female Convicts Research Group (Tasmania))
- Dianne Snowden (Friends of the Orphan Schools)
- David Boon (Education Department)
Spring 2010: Populating the Ross Female Factory
Autumn 2010: Female Factories: Who worked there and why?
Referencing suggestion for seminar papers:
[Author], '[Title of paper'], unpublished paper presented at FCRC Seminar, [seminar date].
or if published:
[Author], ['Title of paper'], paper presented at FCRC Seminar, [seminar date], http://femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/fcrc-seminars/research-seminars.