Museum Archipelago

61. Jody Steele Centers the Convict Women of Tasmania's Penal Colonies at the Female Factory

April 1st, 2019  •  14 mins 44 secs  •  Download (21.2 MB)  •  Link with Timestamp

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Penal transportation from England to Australia from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s was used to expand Britain's spheres of influence and to reduce overcrowding in British prisons. The male convict experience is well-known, but the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart is at the center of a shift in how Australians think of the role that female convicts played in the colonization of Tasmania.

Dr. Jody Steele, the heritage interpretation manager for the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, which includes the Female Factory, says that having a convict ancestor used to be considered shameful. But in the past 20 years, attitudes have shifted dramatically. Sites like the Female Factory, the Female Convicts Research Centre, and a general interest in geological research have helped the public better understand how the forced labor of women built the economy of the island.

Today, the museum is on the cusp of a major renovation. Dr Steele describes how the proposed design, chosen by an all-female panel, will present the female convict experience in Tasmania.