Hello readers! It has been quite a while since I’ve made a post about all the recent happenings of my authorness. Unfortunately, the lack of posts reflects the lack of work towards my writing. So many things can get in the way – university, work… LIFE! But I guess the important thing is mastering this thing we call time.
Of recent, I mentioned that one individual’s review made me consider a part 2 to my debut novel, Port Arthur. I never would have considered this when I first wrote it, and ended the book in a way that I thought couldn’t be revived. But what kind of writer am I if I can’t take paper and turn it into lemon juice, dripping rhythmically from the edge of a neon yellow lemon sliced by the jagged edged blade of a lonely ranger riding upon a dark brown stallion with nothing but his burnt leather coat upon his hardy shoulders and pistol strapped to his waist? So, I did what I had to… entered into the world of Port Arthur and asked the question: ‘What if…?’
And that took me back to Hobart, Tasmania, where I visited a prison site named ‘Cascades Female Factory.’ It was a prison for females, unlike Port Arthur, a prison for men, and housed all kinds of female convicts during the 1800’s. So, let me take you through a very brief journey of life at Cascades Female Factory in Hobart, Tasmania.
It was originally a rum distillery, but was bought and converted into a prison for female convicts. These convicts arrived from various parts of the United Kingdom, but unlike Port Arthur, the convicts who were sent to Cascades weren’t reoffenders. Many of the women were convicted for petty crimes, most commonly theft of various goods in order to survive by consuming or trading for money or food.
Cascades Female Factory (or Female House of Corrections) is located in a valley opposite the Hobart rivulet, which was used as a water source for the convicts and free settlers. Water from Mount Wellington, a nearby mountain, runs down from the mountain and ‘cascades’ into the rivulet, hence the name ‘Cascades’. Among other jobs, the female convicts worked as laundry maids (hard labour) or weaved blankets. Other businesses paid the prison to complete such tasks, and the women were involved in industrial-sized work, hence why it became a ‘factory’ of working women.
The women who came in were classed under one of three classes; First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. First Class could be assigned, that is, hired by free settlers as domestic servants. These convicts would serve their time by working for them. Second Class convicts were neither good nor bad – if they behaved well, they could move up to first class. If they behaved badly, they would move down to Third Class, where solitary confinement was the norm. These women were punished often and were placed in hard labour for the penalty of their behaviour.
The historic site is continuously being updated with more and more knowledge of its past. The history of the site is one of surprise, injustice and shock. Despite the many terrible stories and facts, women did leave and become free settlers who found husbands, had children, and basically helped to populate Australia!
I highly recommend a visit to this site. The tour, along with the play ‘Her Story’ by two brilliant actors who tell the sad but unfortunately common story of a female convict, provides a great introduction and summary of life at the factory. It is a great place to learn about the female side of Australian convict history (and a great place to base a book on…!)