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Research Seminars


Research seminars, held twice yearly, are open to all members and to the general public.



"What the convict women brought with them—and what they left behind"

Staurday 7 November 2015

Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Hobart

(Registrations will open later)




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.


9:30     Registration

9:45     Welcome


10.00 Session 1:

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'

Jennifer MacFarlane: ‘Criminal records left behind: a study of prior convictions’

11.15   Short break

11.30 Session 2:

Chris Lepperd: ‘“There are besides many little articles too numerous and insignificant to be noted here”: understanding convict women through their 'checked in' luggage’

Dianne Snowden: ‘Children of Irish convicts’

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)’

12.30 Lunch

1.15 Session 3:

Jan Richardson: ‘Convict Women at Their Needle in Moreton Bay’

Don Bradmore: ‘Convict School Mistresses in Van Diemen’s Land’

Maureen Bransden: ‘Women Who Cared: convict nurses and midwives’

2.15      General discussion of the seminar theme


2.45     Close of seminar


3.00-3.30 Business Meeting of the Female Convicts Research Centre (all welcome)



Past Seminars

  • Autumn 2015Succeeding in the regular economy: the aftermath of convict sentences
  • Spring 2014Crime and Crime Families: relocation and reconnection
  • Autumn 2014Voyages of Female Convict Ships
  • Spring 2013From the Edges of the Empire: female convicts born or tried outside the British Isles
  • Autumn 2013Resilience?
  • Spring 2012Women in a Man's World
  • Autumn 2012The Working Lives of Convict Women (held in conjunction with Runnymede as part of Tasmanian Heritage month)
  • Spring 2011Journeys: A Seminar
  • Autumn 2011The Orphan Schools of Van Diemen's Land (held in conjunction with Friends of the Orphan Schools)
  • Spring 2010: Populating the Ross Female Factory
  • Autumn 2010: Female Factories: Who worked there and why?

Seminar Programs


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


Session 2: The up-and-down fortunes of publicans


Session 3: A land of opportunity?




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

Session 2: Crime families by their descendants


Session 3: Families in crime



Voyages of Female Convict Ships

Saturday 10 May 2014

Old Sunday School, St John's Park Precinct

Session 1

Session 2

Musical Interlude

  • Peter MacFie and Hamish Pike provide music of the period

Session 3: Individual Voyages


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.

Session 1

  • 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

Session 2

  • 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

General discussion



Saturday 11 May 2013
Old Sunday School, St John's Park Precinct

Report on the day by Alison Alexander. Photos of the day by Dan Taylor.

First session: Traditional female methods of coping

Second session: Escape through the mind


  • Tour of the Orphan School buildings with Joyce Purtscher

Third session: Desperate action


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

Second session: Female convicts, their records and their masters


  • A Walking Tour with James Parker: Women and Children at Port Arthur

Third session: Lives of female convicts


The Working Lives of Convict Women

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.

Session 1

  • Meredith Hodgson: Maids of all work (paper available This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • 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

Session 2

Session 3


Journeys: A Seminar

Saturday 5 November 2011
Old Sunday School, Orphan School and St John's Precinct, New Town, TAS
A 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
  • Colette McAlpine: The Voyages of Women Convicted Across the Empire - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Lucy Frost: Caring for the Children at Sea
  • Meredith Hodgson: Steerage or Stay Behind

Session 3—Journeys Through Life


The Orphan Schools of Van Diemen's Land

Saturday 9 April 2011
Old Sunday School, St John's Precinct, New Town, TAS


Session 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
Session 2
  • 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”


  • Tour of the Orphan School site (Joyce Purtscher)
Session 3: Getting the message out: a workshop on our websites and their potential uses
  • Trudy Cowley (Female Convicts Research Group (Tasmania))
  • Dianne Snowden (Friends of the Orphan Schools)
  • David Boon (Education Department)



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