Motherhood under sentence

Emeritus Professor Lucy Frost, University of Tasmania


Convict women serving sentences to transportation lost parental control over their children. Among the almost 13,000 women transported to Van Diemen’s Land, many were already mothers at the time of their trials. Some brought their children with them on the convict ships, most did not. Many of these women—who did not serve their sentences in prison—gave birth while under sentence. This paper examines the experiences of the convict mothers, and of their children.


Lucy Frost is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Tasmania and a member of the Founders and Survivors Research Team. Since coming to Tasmania in 1997, her research has focussed on narrating the lives of convict women. While she was a member of the Board of the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site (2001-2012), she co-founded the research group which is now the Female Convicts Research Centre, with more than 4,000 members, and until  2015 she was the president. She co-edited (with Hamish Maxwell-Stewart) Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives (2001); wrote the guide to the Cascades Female Factory, Footsteps and Voices (2004); was a founder of Convict Women’s Press and editor of three of their books: Female Convicts at the Ross Female Factory (2011); Convict Lives at the Launceston Female Factory (co-edited with Meredith Hodgson, 2013); and From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles (2015). Her study of Scottish convicts, Abandoned Women, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2012. At present she is one of the four members of the “Footsteps towards Freedom” project team whose vision of an iconic sculpture remembering the arrival of the convict women and their children will be realised in 2017 when figures created by the Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie are installed on the Hobart waterfront. Her current research project is a study of the children apprenticed from the Queen’s Asylum for Destitute Children (formerly the Queen’s Orphan Schools) in Hobart 1860-1880.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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