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Intrigued to discover a convict in her family tree, Babette Smith decided to investigate her ancestor's life and the lives of the 99 women who were transported with her on the Princess Royal in 1829.
Piece by piece she reveals the story of her ancestor, the indomitable Susannah Watson, who, trapped in the crowded, filthy slums of Nottingham, stole because she 'could not bear to see her children starving'. Separated forever from her husband and four children, she was transported to Australia for 14 years. She endured the convict system at its worst, yet emerged triumphant to die in her bed, aged 83, singing 'Rock of Ages'.
Babette Smith reconstructs the lives of the women of the Princess Royal from fragments of information in shipping lists, official records, newspapers and court transcripts. Her research overturns stereotypes of women convicts as drunken whores and criminals. Caught in an England convulsed by change, they became the unwitting and unwilling pioneers of a new land. Many proved to be resourceful and resilient, taking advantage of the opportunities offered by a nascent society.
First published two decades ago, A Cargo of Women became a bestseller and remains one of the most valuable accounts of convict life in Australia. This new edition includes further information about the women from the Princess Royal and new illustrations.
Chapter 1 Into the Maelstrom 9
Chapter 2 Pity Our Distress 15
Chapter 3 The Full Penalty of the Law 28
Chapter 4 Transported Beyond the Seas 46
Chapter 5 A Very Pleasant Town 57
Chapter 6 On Assignment 69
Chapter 7 The Female Factory- 'They Must Be Kept Under' 80
Chapter 8 With His Excellency's Consent 91
Chapter 9 'Female Married' 103
Chapter 10 Beating the System 114
Chapter 11 A Dubious Refuge 133
Chapter 12 Different Journeys 153
Chapter 13 Some Evidence of Affection 166
Chapter 14 Caught in the System 186
Chapter 15 Survivors and Victims 198
Chapter 16 An Affectionate Mother 212
Chapter 17 A Second Chance 233
Appendix: The Convicts of the Princess Royal 245
Picture credits 273