Monday, March 5, 2012

Women Triumphant

History, drama, poverty, injustice, adventure, suspense, early 1800s England and Scotland, Old Bailey, Newgate Prison, travel, ocean voyages, women's history, Van Dieman's Land, Australia....

If any of those topics interest you, or if you have ancestors who lived in the United Kingdom during this time period, I recommend The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women by Deborah J. Swiss.   I had a hard time putting it down.  In fact, I devoured it and then wished I hadn't read it so fast.  Careful research and Swiss's excellent writing skills paint vivid pictures and open windows for readers to view the life and times of four women transported to Australia.

Until a year ago I knew nothing about convict transportation.  Carolly Erickson's book, The Girl from Botany Bay, gave me my first introduction to this sad era in British history.  It was a short but gruesome account of a young woman, Mary Broad, who had been convicted of theft in the late 1700s.  Her sentence was transportation to Botany Bay, Australia's early convict colony.

The Tin Ticket takes place several decades later.  It begins in Scotland where we meet two abandoned, penniless, hungry teen girls fending for themselves and trying to stay alive in a poor and unsympathetic community.  Their story moves to prison in England, to a prison ship, then to Van Dieman's Land where we follow their imprisonment at Cascades Female Factory.  Next we meet a middle-aged widow who doesn't earn enough to feed her daughter even though she's employed.  She and her daughter follow the route of the two young girls and their paths eventually cross.  Later in the book we meet a woman from Ireland who also serves a sentence at Cascades Female Factory.

The four heroines are all convicted of what we would now call petty crimes, but which were considered worthy of transportation to "land beyond the seas" in the early to mid-1800s.  The interest of the book isn't learning whether these women survive.  We know they survive.  The interest of the book comes in the suspense of reading the conditions of their lives and how they survived, overcame adversity, and eventually triumphed.

Fi of Dance Skeletons first introduced me to this book in her post, The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women.   She posted a video that included interviews of descendants of the heroines of this story and images of Cascades Female Factory.  It was interesting to watch before I read the book but much better after I finished it.  Thank you, Fi.

The women in this book triumphed over adversity beyond my imagination.   I agree with Fi's assessment of the book:  "The truth of their stories is better than fiction."   If you read it, I hope you find it worthwhile.



  1. This sounds like a fascinating book, Nancy. I can't even imagine the hardships these women faced, or why sending them to prison in Australia was considered a just punishment. I've already added it to my list of books to buy. Thanks for the interesting review!

  2. Nancy, you are most welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did. I agree the video has more meaning once the book has been read.


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