New Insight into Tasmania’s Female Convicts


The fascinating lives, trials and small triumphs of the women and children who passed through the Cascades Female Factory have been documented in a new book.

Convict Lives: Women at Cascades Female Factory, the first of a series of books to be published by the Female Factory Research Group, was launched on Sunday by Larissa Bartlett at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in South Hobart.

“I found the stories of the women and children to be very personal and told with real compassion and empathy. They gave me a real sense of what life must have been like for those who spent time in this place,” Mrs Bartlett said.

“These stories of the 33 women from 22 contributors provide an insight into Tasmanian and female convict history as well as the lives of these fascinating women.”

Mrs Bartlett said she was struck by the diversity of the stories of the women and children.

“I congratulate the Female Factory Research Group on producing such a fascinating and worthwhile book,” Ms Bartlett said.

Local author Trudy Cowley tells the story of Margaretta Sarah Brymer, who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for life for housebreaking but made an advantageous marriage and died a rich and important woman, aged 72.

One of historian Professor Lucy Frost’s stories is of ‘Mary Jane’, who was born into slavery in Barbados. Two years after the slaves were emancipated in Barbados in 1834, Mary Jane was convicted of assaulting a child and sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

Local convict historian Associate Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart said the book will be of great value to Tasmanians and visitors to the factory.

“The contributors to this remarkable book do much to strike the irons off the past, liberating convict women from the confines of the archive,” Associate Professor Maxwell-Stewart said.

“The lives they have pieced together stand testimony to the rich and surprising diversity of colonial life.”

The Female Factory operated between 1828 and 1856. More than half the 25,000 women transported to Australia came to Van Diemen’s Land, and most had a connection or association with the factory.

More than 1,100 children are known to have died in the nurseries attached to the Cascades Female Factory.

The Female Factory Research Group was formed in 2004 to foster research into the lives and experiences of these convict women and their children, and into the female factories designed to define and contain those experiences.

The Cascades Female Factory is one of the best documented female convict sites in Australia and is part of the Australian Convict Sites nomination for World Heritage listing.


Larissa Bartlett launches the book at the Cascades Female Factory

Larissa Bartlett launches the book at the Cascades Female Factory