Female factories based on British prisons and workhouses were for women convicts transported to the penal colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land in Australia.
An estimated 9,000 convict women laboured in the 13 female factories between 1804 to 1856. An estimated 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 Australians are related to these women. The factories were called factories because each was a site of production. The women produced spun wool and flax in all the factories. In the main factories other work was undertaken such as sewing, stocking knitting and straw plaiting. Hard labour included rock breaking and oakum picking (see previous POST)
Women were sent to the female factories while awaiting assignment to a household or while awaiting childbirth or weaning or as punishment.The women were placed in three distinct classes that “on no account be suffered to communicate with each other”.
November to March saw unrelenting hours of labour, with the shorter days in winter being the only solace. With the sun not setting until after dinner for a large part of the year, the women were labouring up to 12 hours a day and even the slightest disobedience to the rules was punishable.
“Females guilty of disobedience of orders, neglect of work, profane, obscene, or abusive language, insubordination, or other turbulent or disorderly or disrespectful conduct, shall be punished by the superintendent with close confinement in a dark or other cell, until her case shall be brought under consideration of the Principal Superintendent.” – Rules & Regulations, 1829.
The Cascades Female Factory in the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, is located in Hobart, Tasmania was operational between 1828 and 1856, and is now one of the 11 sites that collectively comprise the Australian Convict Sites, listed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
Collectively the Australian Convict Sites represent an exceptional example of the forced migration of convicts and an extraordinary example of global developments associated with punishment and reform. Representing the female experience, the Cascades Female Factory demonstrates how penal transportation was used to expand Britain’s spheres of influence, as well as to punish and reform female convicts.
Roses from the Heart is the first memorial to all women sentenced to transportation as convicts to Australia. 25,566 cloth bonnets (taken from an 1860s servants bonnet) symbolises the women whose lives have been shrouded by a veil of amnesia for far too long.
This is a project by Christina Henri, the following information is from her website and explains the project.
Christina Henri’s Roses from the Heart(tm) installation examines the exploitation of mainly white ‘slaves’ – convict women – and considers the contemporary exploitation of humans, especially female workers, via sweat shops in the manufacturing industry.
The artist conceived the cloth bonnet symbol as a signifier of the convict women’s worth – their economic value to Australia’s prosperity. Contemporary industry now often chooses to remain competitive through the use of ‘sweat shop labour’. The artist raises the notion of exploitation and poses the question has society learnt from past mistakes.
Christina invites people throughout the world to make a bonnet tribute to commemorate the value of a convict woman’s life. The artist deliberately chose to invite personal tributes to be made rather than mass orders so that each bonnet is a testament to the individuality of the lass for whom it is created.
The artist chose to use a servant’s bonnet for the template bonnet as many convict women were assigned to work amongst the community in private residences as domestic help. The choice of white or cream cloth is also important. From a distance the bonnet Memorial will give the impression that all the bonnets are identical. On closer inspection every bonnet will be different. Continued research identifies that the convict women were far more than a bunch of ‘damned whores’ as they were so often referred to.
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