Meet some of the people whose lives and stories are woven into Cascades Female Factory’s history.
Matron of the Female Factory
While not a convict, Mary Hutchinson’s life was far from easy. After accompanying her husband on a failed Christian mission to Tonga, the couple were appointed Superintendent and Matron of the Female House of Correction in Hobart during 1832. The Matron’s responsibility for the health and behaviour of the inmates was challenging enough; but for Mary it was made worse by the increase in numbers of transported women in the 1830s-40s, caring for her own children and her husband’s persistent ill health and incompetence. Despite these difficulties, Mary did introduce many improvements to the welfare and reformation of convicts in the House of Correction.
Convict and pauper
Mary Devereux was around 50 years old when caught counterfeiting shillings. Her crime saw her transported for life; however she did not come alone, as she was accompanied by Margaret, her 10 year old daughter. Separated upon arrival in Van Diemen’s Land, life could not have been easy for either of them. Margaret was to grow up in the Cascade Female Factory’s Nursery Yard and then the Orphan School in New Town. While Mary’s age and temperament was to keep her destitute and in trouble with the law.
Victim of the Great Famine
Penelope ‘Nappy’ Ribbon’s story was particularly heartbreaking. She was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing a sheep during the Great Famine. Under the Assignment system Nappy behaved well, gave birth to a son named Thomas, and soon received her Ticket-of-Leave. Nappy’s woes returned however, when she was denied permission to marry William Connor, a fellow convict, and they were caught living in adultery. With her Ticket-of-Leave revoked and a new sentence of hard labour, Nappy gave birth to a daughter, Mary Ann Ribbon. Like many children born to convict mothers, it seems that neither Thomas nor Mary Ann survived for long in the convict system.
Female Convict Escapee
Mary Wilkes was a trouble maker. At 22, Mary was charged with highway robbery and sentenced to transportation. On the voyage she encouraged fellow convicts to be defiant and disorderly. After arriving in Van Diemen’s Land, Mary regularly found herself in the solitary cells of the Female Factory. It was perhaps these periods of solitary confinement that encouraged her to run away before completing her first year under the assignment system.
It was Sarah Mason’s third offence that saw her sentenced to transportation. She was only 21 when she arrived on 10 August 1851. Unfortunately for Sarah, her sentence occurred as new regulations were being enforced at the Cascades Female Factory. These regulations may have been seen by Sarah as a challenge, as she spent most of her sentence within the factory, and committed an array of offences including taking the duties of a watchwoman without permission, leaving the yard without permission, giving out tobacco, and singing during silent treatment.