Sunday, April 5, 2009


While in Tasmania, I visited the lovely little town of Ross but I wasn't prepared for the sad story of the women's prison, situated high on a hill behind the town near a lovely old church. Female houses of correction, or 'female factories', operated in Australia from 1828 and the Ross Female Factory existed between 1847 and 1854.

Most of the women were put there for the crime of getting pregnant. Conditions were miserable, cold, wet and windy and the infant mortality rate was high, with babies buried un-named with not even a sign of a little cross.

Old Stables

...there was a violent exhibition of disorderly conduct on the part of the women confined in the Nursery and the Crime Class. On the occasion of carrying one of them across the yard solitary confinement, the Constable Taylor, was attacked first by the woman followed by the vigorous co-operation of the rest. Missiles were thrown at both the constable and the Asst. Superintendent Imrie. The efforts at pacification were ineffective until Mr. Imrie produced the batons. The rioters stood back and eventually the woman sentenced to solitary confinement accompanied Mr. Imrie to the cells. The women holding passes were separated from the yard but their cheers and shrieks added to the confusion.

Comptroller General of Convicts Records 1848.

Commandant's Quarters

The local church ladies have stitched these little bonnets (above pic) in memory of the babies thrown into unmarked graves. Much of the fabric and thread used is antique, passed down from that time.

Bleak view to Prison site from Graveyard


willow said...

A sad bit of history, indeed. Even the name "Female Factory" is so terribly degrading.

Coccinella said...

Yes, very grim. Apparently they sewed for the "well to do" but the name still grates.