Women's History Month - Convicted!

The first European women to reach Australia's shores were sent against their will. They did not have the support, nor the 'leisure' to fight for their rights, yet made the best of it. They helped where they could to make the fledgling colony of New South Wales to be a place that could be called home.

 Margaret Catchpole was one such woman. Despite having been sent out for life, (arriving December 1801) for horse stealing and escaping from prison, all for love, Margaret made herself very useful in the colony. She found work in the kitchens of the free settlers and became indispensable to the families she worked for, for her skill with nursing the sick. Once she was eventually pardoned she set herself up in a small store at Richmond and did nursing and midwifery as required. She was also a very good diarist, and it is her memoirs that chronicle the only knowledge of many early colonial events. She certainly stirred up local interest with newspaper articles  written in the early papers about her and a film made of her life. Scapegallows gives an account of her life.

Molly Morgan was a woman with character. She was transported to Australia in the second, gained her ticket of leave, escaped in the Resolution with other, still bound, convicts. Once she made it back she married in England but was then convicted by her husband for burning down their home, and so was transported a second time. She was given a free rein by her protector, but continued to fall foul of the authorities. Eventually she achieved a ticket of leave and was granted a small parcel of land at the new Wallis plains settlement (Maitland). Although reasonably successful as farmer, it was her wine shanty that set her on the road to security, eventually to the establishment of the Angel Inn in the centre of Maitland. The Australian on the 23rd January 1928 named her as one of the regions largest landholder. Her background was in petty crime, immorality and self-indulgence and yet was known for her generosity and compassion for those less fortunate setting up a rough and ready hospital for the sick as well as a large donation towards the building of a school. She was a colourful pioneer of the Maitland district.