Women Transported: Life in Australia's Convict Female Factories
9 April - 3 July
Emma [Emmilla] Mayner and daughters, c1855
Courtesy of Shirley Moore
Anne Dunne, c1865
Courtesy of Maureen Upfold, Susan Bulbrook and Helen Soars
This confronting and inspiring exhibition from the Parramatta Heritage Centre reveals the harsh lives of women who were incarcerated. An estimated one in five Australians has an ancestor who spent time in a convict female factory, although very little material survives from these women. Their contribution has been largely ignored, yet they are the ‘mothers of the nation’ – women with grit who survived the dire conditions of late 18th and early 19th century colonial Australia.
There were 12 female factories in Australia operating in the first half of the 19th century. Their roles were varied but included a weaving factory, accommodation for transported convict women, places for assigning convict servants to masters and mistresses, a hospital for convicts and free settlers, a penitentiary and a marriage bureau. The oldest and most famous of Australia’s 12 female factories was in Parramatta, NSW and opened in 1804.
While in the factory these pioneering women did spinning, weaving, laundry, oakum picking, rock breaking, sewing, straw plaiting and domestic duties. After leaving the factories they went on to work the land, run the businesses and become mothers.
The heroic personal accounts of women torn from the lives they knew, separated from their children, and often assigned to inhumane colonial masters and mistresses are celebrated through artworks, letters, documents, photographs, domestic items, films and interactives. Objects in the exhibition are drawn from various public and private Australian collections. “Women Transported” is a tribute to the memories and experiences of women who made a significant contribution to the nation.
Women Transported – Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories is a touring exhibition by Parramatta Heritage Centre in partnership with the University of Western Sydney.
This exhibition is supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of Australian cultural material across Australia.
Exhibition merchandise is available for purchase from the Gift Shop.