Aussie Book Review: Abandoned Women: Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas (non-fiction)

 Lucy Frost- Abandoned Women: Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas

 Format- Paperback

 Source- Review copy

 Publisher- Allen & Unwin

 Synopsis: From  the crowded tenements of Edinburgh to the Female Factory nestling in the shadow of Mt Wellington, dozens of Scottish women convicts were exiled to Van Diemen’s Land with their young children. This is a rich and evocative account of the lives of women at the bottom of society two hundred years ago.

Review: “‘Abandoned’ women, the Scottish convicts were called by an eminent twentieth-century Australian historian- worse than the English, even worse than the Irish. And the worst of the worst were shipped to the island of Van Diemen’s Land, later re-named Tasmania to cover its convict stain….

But who were these ‘abandoned’ women? What were their lives like in Scotland? And what happened to them in Australia?” page 1

This quote provides insight into the curiosity and ambition of the author, Lucy Frost to find some answers about the Scottish convicts that were exiled to Australia in the eighteenth century. In Abandoned Women, Frost has brought to life the woman who arrived in Hobart aboard the Atwick in 1838.

This is a fascinating insight into the lives of these women, many of whom were exiled from their homeland for petty thievery, only to be locked up in the Female Factory in Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania), an ocean away from home.

What I found particularly interesting, are the journeys of individual women who Frost had tracked from their sentencing in Scotland, to their sentence in the Female Factory, to their babes in the nursery, to their husbands, lovers and more crimes committed over the many decades they lived in Australia.

The intergenerational turmoil of these young women who had come from broken down homes, lived on the streets and then thrown into a new country, new culture, new lifestyle with nearly no life skills other than how to survive on the streets. They would birth to children who were starved of emotional connections while living in the nursery, many would die. Grieving mothers were not treated with the respect they would nowadays because the children were simply considered ‘illegitimate’ anyway.

Frost tracks the women from the Atwick as well as some of their children and their grandchildren. It’s intriguing, from a psychology standpoint, the different paths these children took in their lives. Some showed resilience and dedicated themselves to a dignified living, while others followed their parents’ footsteps and lived a life under the watchful eye of the judiciary system.

I recommend this title if you are interested in Australian history and the stories of our ancestors. It’s an informative novel delivered as an engaging narrative, by a passionate researcher.

4/5 rating

Purchase book @

FishpondBook Depository

Allen & Unwin

About the author:

LUCY FROST has spent a career researching and writing about nineteenth-century women. She is the author of No Place for a Nervous Lady and other books on women’s experience.

This book was read as part of the

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9 comments

  1. For a while when I was younger I was fascinated by the journeys of female convicts. I read A Cargo of Women by Babette Smith for a school project that triggered a short obsession. This sounds similar, I will have to keep an eye out fo rit.
    Thanks for sharing your review Jayne

    Like

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