The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elizabeth's time as a convict

Last time I told you about Elizabeth's background, her sentencing, and her arrival in Van Diemen's land.
On disembarking, she, along with 94 other women (seven had died on the way), would have marched to the female factory and heard Governor Arthur tell how she might improve her lot.

Women Were Graded

Prisoners were then divided on their record into three classes:

1.         Those newly arrived from England with a good behaviour record.  This class also included women who had been returned from service in the colony with a good record and those who had served a satisfactory probationary period in Class 2.  Only Class 1 women were considered suitable for assignment around the colony.

2.         Women guilty of minor offences and those who through improved conduct merited removal from third class.  After a probationary period they could go up to first class.

3.         Crime class for those transported a second time or guilty of misconduct on voyage or after arrival.

Women who became pregnant in service were sent to the factory.

According to the regulations for running the Female Factory it published in the Hobart Town Gazette 3rd November 1829, women in first class were to wear a dress without a distinguishing mark;  those in second class the same but with a large yellow ‘C’ on the sleeve  Those in third class were to have a large yellow cross on their back and petticoat.  All were to get two aprons, two caps, two handkerchiefs, and two pairs of stockings.

Their daily routine in summer was rise at 5.30 ready for work at 6.  Then breakfast at 8, prayers and labour at 8.30 until dinner at noon.  After that they laboured until sunset.  Evening meal came at 7.30 followed by prayers at 8.00.

Reports say the women in the factory were orderly and quiet although they frequently used bad language and, according to one report, sang improper songs.  They attempted to burn the place down in 1827.

The factory was no holiday resort.  Those in crime class would often suffer dehumanising treatment like having their heads shaved, being put in solitary, given hard labour at the wash trough or put in an iron collar.  In 1832 there were about 200 women held there.  With the far greater proportion of men in the colony, men, and not only convicts, would go to the factory to select a wife.

Elizabeth gave her occupation as servant and was assigned to settlers around the colony.  On 12th August 1833 she ran into trouble for disobedience and insolence to his mistress, Mrs Sheppard, and was sent off to a solitary working cell for a month;  on 13th November next she was in the Foster household but had to be sent to Crime Class for being pregnant.  It is not recorded whether that was in Launceston or Hobart.

Whether Elizabeth successfully delivered her child is not known.  There are no baptism records of a child by the name of Banks.  One might suspect Charles as the father but there are no records to confirm it.

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