The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cascades Female Factory

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Cascades Female Factory for the first time.  It was a very emotional experience as I pondered on the arrival in Van Diemen's Land of many of my ancestors.  In particular my female convict ancestors, who are:

Elizabeth Banks on the Frances Charlotte

Grace Stevens on the Rajah

Ann Willis on the New Grove

Margaret Roberts on the Angelina.

The Female Factory was a prison.  After it was built in 1828, the female convicts were all sent there upon arrival in Hobart.  In the Assignment system the women who were well behaved on board their ship and on arrival were selected for service to households in the growing colony.  The women who hadn't behaved so well were placed in second class, these women did all the sewing for the inmates, the staff and soldiers and also 'contract' sewing.  The women who were badly behaved and/or committed another offence on or after arrival were placed in Crime Class.  The women in crime class did all the laundry, for the prison, the hospital, the staff and also 'contract' laundry.  The women could be put in crime class as punishment if they were accused of wrong doing after being put in service.  Many women returned to the Female Factory pregnant after being placed on a property - many were assaulted during their assignments - they were given a sentence in crime class during the pregnancy and afterwards.  Babies born to women in the factory were removed to the orphanage at 6 months of age, if they survived.

Grace arrived in 1841 and in the 1841 musters is listed as 'in service to J Archer Launceston' - so she must have been well behaved. 

Elizabeth was returned to the factory a couple of times.  On one occasion for being pregnant.  There is no record of whether she delivered the baby.

During the visit I was lucky to meet and have lunch with Christina Henri.  Christina has been artist-in-residence at the Female Factory and created the Roses from the Heart convict bonnet project.

I'll share some more about this next time,


1 comment:

  1. Lovely time with you Bernadette. Retracing the steps. The convict women brought down the Derwent River. Depending what year they arrived they would have walked up to the Cascades Female Factory where they would await the possibility of assignment.

    It's all so personal when it's your very own ancestor that was walked up to the female factory. That changes everything. You want to understand her experiences.

    One in every six Google Search relates to ancestry queries. One in four Australians have convict ancestry. There are many descendants wanting to learn about their family history and Bernadette like you and I they may find they have a female or male convict ancestor. They too will learn more about colonial history through their interest in their very own family searchings.