The little-known stories of Tasmania’s convict women are being recalled from the past in a new publication launched at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in South Hobart.
Pack of Thieves? 52 Female Factory Lives comprises a pack of playing cards providing a visual interpretation of 52 women and staff who were incarcerated or worked at the Cascades Female Factory, with an accompanying book recounting their life stories.
Their stories are all based on information gleaned from their records following research by some of Tasmania’s most noted historians, including Dr Alison Alexander, Professor Lucy Frost, Collette McAlpine and Dr Dianne Snowden, as well as staff from the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA), which has published the Pack of Thieves? and which manages the Cascades Female Factory. The illustrations have been created, again, based on historical records, by Tasmanian-born artist Simon Barnard.
The women depicted include convicts as well as staff of the Female Factory, which was Tasmania’s major women’s prison from 1828-1856 and is now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list along with Port Arthur and the Coal Mines Historic Sites as part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property.
“We know from visitor feedback that it is the human stories that inspire an appreciation of the lives of such people during this period,” said Dr Jody Steele, Heritage Programs Manager for PAHSMA.
“Individual and often inspiring cases of hardship, resistance, and family connections including births, deaths and marriages often resonate with the lives of those living today.”
Visitation of the Cascades Female Factory has grown dramatically since the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority assumed management of it in early 2012, with visitor numbers doubling over the past two years to around 22,000 in the twelve months to the end of June.
The publication forms a companion piece to the Pack of Thieves? 52 Port Arthur Lives playing cards and booklet that relates the stories of male convicts at Port Arthur and which is now in its 6th reprint. Both will be available at the Port Arthur and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites as well as selected bookshops and gift shops around Tasmania.
The project has been funded by a grant under the Sharing Community Heritage Stories sub-program of the Your Community Heritage Grants Program, 2012-2013, nationally funded through the Commonwealth Department of Environment.