Female convicts were a varied bunch. They ranged in age from children to women in old age—the youngest currently recorded in our database is aged 10 years, and the oldest is aged 81 years. Most of the women, however, were in their twenties or thirties—of child bearing age. The average age of the convicts was 26.7 years.
Many of the convicts were single, but some were married and others widowed. A small proportion brought children with them on their journey of transportation. However, most left family behind in their homeland, for many this included children. Some convicts were transported with family members, or family members had come before them, or came after them.
Many of the crimes for which they were transported are considered minor offences by today's standards. The most common crime by far was stealing—food, clothing, money, household items—mostly items worth no more than £5.
Relatively few of the women were transported for a first offence. A few of the women even courted transportation—deliberately committing crimes such as arson in order to be transported. Perhaps a few were wrongly accused, but the majority, according to the laws of the day, deserved to be transported to the other side of the world, away from kith and kin.
The newspapers often described female convicts disparagingly—this was probably an echo of the opinion of middle and upper classes who seem to have believed that all women should conduct themselves like ladies. The following article appeared in the Launceston Examiner on 22 July 1845 (p.460).
WATCHHOUSE.—Only a day or two since, we had the pleasure of recording that for two nights, the watchhouse was all but untenanted; with regret, we now publish a fact we hope equally without precedent; on Monday night, there were twelve charges, and, let it not be read without a blush, nine of the inmates were females! The spectacle presented by the miserable creatures as one by one they were brought before the bench, was really appalling.
Do you have a female convict ancestor? If so, please consider completing our