Abandoned Women : Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas
Format: Trade Paper
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
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From the crowded tenements of Edinburgh to the Female Factory nestling in the shadow of Mt Wellington, dozens of Scottish women convicts were exiled to Van Diemen's Land with their young children. This is a rich and evocative account of the lives of women at the bottom of society two hundred years ago. In the early 19th century crofters and villagers streamed into the burgeoning cities of Scotland, settling in the crowded and damp tenements of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Orphan girls, single mothers, women with feckless husbands and widows all struggled to feed and clothe themselves, and were left with few options other than theft and prostitution. Anxious to quell the rising tide of petty crime, the Scottish authorities imposed harsh sentences, consigning these women - and often their children too - for transportation to the Australian colonies. Lucy Frost tells the stories of the lives of a boatload of women and their children who arrived in Hobart in 1838. While convict men of that period worked in road gangs, the women were assigned as domestic servants, seamstresses or to work in dairies, and were often ill-treated by their employers. Considered 'useless when pregnant', they spent months in the Female Factory locked up 'in the stench of a convict nursery amidst sick and dying children'. Some managed to snare a good husband once they'd earned their tickets of leave, and became solid citizens. For others errors and disasters continued to plague their lives in the colony.