Convict Women

The First Woman Ashore
Elizabeth Thackery was charged at the Manchester Assizes in 1786 of stealing a silk handkerchief.  She was charged with theft and sailed for Botany Bay aboard Friendship with 97 other convicts.  During the voyage, Elizabeth contracted several liaisons with various members of the Friendship’s crew.

Elizabeth must have had some spirit for she was known as one of the fighting five a group of convict women who fought against their imprisonment at every step of the voyage.  For her misbehaviour she was one of the convicts transferred during the voyage to the Charlotte.

She later claimed that when the Charlotte arrived in Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, she seized the opportunity to jump ashore ahead of all the other female convicts.  No one seems to have disputed her claim.  Eventually Elizabeth was sent to Van Diemen’s Land where she met and married Sam King, a farmer at New Norfolk.

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay (Wikipedia)

Captain Phillip, Thursday 7 February 1788
All the convicts are now disembarked and at night when the last of the women convicts were landed, the blackening skies released a most terrible tropical storm.  The male convicts unleased frustrations built up in the twelve months they hd been chained below decks, broke loose from their temporary gaol-yard and into the women’s camps.

Convict Women Chosen to go to Norfolk Island March 1788
An extract from the diary of Arthur Bowes Smyth, Surgeon of Lady Penrhyn
Jany 30 1788
This day Lt King came on board to consult me respecting the characters of 5 or 6 women whom he meant to take with him to New Norfolk ….
Mr Jamieson the first Surgeons’ Mate on board the Sirius (a very sensible good dispos’d man) is going with him as Surgeon.
He takes with him 8 of the convict men and 6 women – he has choice of such of both sexes who behaviour on board during the Voyage has been the least exceptionable and has held out such encouragement to them upon their behaving properly, as must render their situation much more comfortable than it could have been had they stayed in Port Jackson…
He also informed them that it was the Governors’ pleasure, , that if any partiality or reciprocal affection should take place between the Male and Female convicts going there or after their arrival at N Norfolk they might marry, and that he authorised the Surgeon, Mr Jamieson to perform that Office and after a time the Clergyman would be sent there to remarry them.
The women I recommended and who consented to go with him were Elizth. Lee – Elizth. Hipsley – Elizth. Colley – Olivia Gascoin – Ann Inett – Ann Yates was recommended as a very fit person to go, having uniformly behaved well during the Whole of the Voyage, But wishing rather to continue where she was – another was fixed in her room.

Note:  It appears that Susan Gough (Friendship/Charlotte) was the female convict chosen to replace Ann Yates, who did not want to go, in the party to settle Norfolk Island.

Captain Phillip, Thursday 14 February 1788
At six this morning the five women selected to go to Norfolk Island from the ‘Lady Penrhyn’ and six female convicts together with other personnel went aboard the ‘Supply’ in preparation for the trip to Norfolk.  They took stores for six months some sheep, hogs and poultry, seeds and plants, with tools for clearing and cultivating the ground.

Judge Advocate Collins, Wednesday 3 December 1788
…a female convict who received stolen goods was made a public example of.  She was clothed with a canvas frock on which was painted in large characters R.S.G. (Receiver of stolen goods).


© First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc, 2013