The ‘journey’ of the Friendship’s women, as they transitioned from convicts to colonists, has been summarised in the “BOF Women at a Glance” spreadsheet, (adjust the + zoom function for legibility).
It details the time and place of their trials and the sentences meted out. Where recorded the names of their UK husbands/partners are noted, as are any identified children born to them prior to their embarkation on the Friendship, and/or children who accompanied their mother on board. Their stated age on arrival and trade/calling are recorded, noting that these details were provided by the women themselves and were very much taken at face value. For most of them we know when they were granted their Certificate of Freedom or Pardon. The majority of them found husbands and or partners (in some cases multiple times), and together these couples produced the children who, as they married and had children on their own, were effectively the foundation stones of the women’s colonial legacy. Finally the date and place of death are recorded together, if established, the cause.
(NOTE : This spreadsheet is a working document. It reflects where there is some query as to the accuracy of the data, and indicates where further research may be able to fill in some of the blanks.)
A profile has been compiled for each of the Friendship women. These have been grouped in accordance with whether they were assigned to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land and then in accordance with the county in which they were tried. Profiles are also provided for the four ‘Non Arrivals’.
For some there is very little information, but for others it has been possible to provide a more comprehensive ‘story’. For these profiles I have taken the spelling of the convict’s name as listed in Shelton’s attachment to his charter.
Of the 97 women who arrived in the Friendship, 43 were allocated to New South Wales.
In addition to the 53 women who were transhipped to Hobart Town on the Duke of Wellington, Friendship convict Elizabeth Quantrell followed in August 1820, one of 30 female convicts embarked on the H.M. Brig Princess Charlotte. Although she came as a free passenger on the Friendship Mary Thompson (née Sellairs) soon offended and was sent to Van Diemen’s Land to serve a colonial sentence.
Four of the Friendship women did not survive the voyage. Some details have been included for these unfortunates
In his first despatch of 1818 to Earl Bathurst, dated 3 March, Governor Macquarie expressed his frustration and deep concern over the deleterious effects of a ‘sea voyage’ on the female convicts. Their on-board experiences had so tarnished their characters that Governor Macquarie despaired of them ever being reformed and assimilated as decent members of colonial society.
I am Mortified to be Obliged to Observe that, according to the Existing Regulations for the Transportation of Females to this Country, these unfortunate Creatures (several of Whom are Young and when Embarked it is to be hoped Not altogether abandoned) are but too frequently Exposed to such Scenes of Debauchery during the Passage, as to leave but little Hope of their being Speedily reclaimed after their arrival here.
If some System could be adopted to guard against and prevent the Shameful Prostitution of these unfortunate Creatures, Who Cannot be Considered during Such a Voyage as Free Agents, it is but Charitable and reasonable to hope that, After their Arrival, frequent Reforms Would take place. At present the Instances of Amendment are much less frequent among the Women than the Men Convicts, and I cannot but Attribute this Melancholy Fact to the glaring and gross Practices to Which they are Exposed, I have much Reason to Apprehend, on the Passage hither as is Exemplified by the Depositions respecting the Friendship.[i]
In fact, Macquarie had been well aware that such ‘scandalous’ behaviour and the unrestrained mingling between women convicts and the crew – men and officers – was the norm rather than the unsavoury exception. But he had not bothered their Lordships in England with such matters because they had never before been ‘brought to Public View’. Indeed, up to now, by turning a blind eye ‘a good Understanding was thereby preserved between all Parties, and of Course no Complaints Were Made’.[ii]
To what extent did the individual Friendship women fulfil Macquarie’s grim prediction? There would be some who, for a variety of reasons, did not become ‘Instances of Amendment’. However, as argued by Portia Robinson, many if not most of them did prosper in varying degrees, and did, along with the convict women who had preceded and were to follow them, took their place and contributed to the wellbeing of, and laid the foundation for their newly, if not at first willingly, adopted country.
They had arrived as one class, the damned whores of the criminal haunts of Britain. They found their own levels in the strata of convict society. They lived and worked within a class structure which barred no woman, took no account of proven criminality, paid no heed to assumptions of infamy, degradation and depravity. Their stepping stone to colonial respectability was economic achievement, self-dependence, enterprise, initiative and colonial honesty.[iii]
[i] Historical Records of Australia (HRA), Series I, Volume IX, The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, p. 750.
[iii] Portia Robinson, The Women of Botany Bay : A reinterpretation of the role of women in the origins of Australia society, Macquarie University, Sydney, 1988, p236.
Preparing for the Journey