“Gosh Kirsty, long time no see. How have you been? What happened”?
“Trev, I’m really sorry not to have been in touch. I’ve been having a hard time in Iso. I needed to see someone about my mental health, and thankfully found the right person to help me. Only last week she prescribed some meds that i’m still getting used to. Seriously, though, I don’t want to abandon my research, even if any kind of academic future for me is out of the question.
“Ok. I very much agree with you: early career prospects are not looking good for anyone in the humanities at present. If you want to talk about this sometime, we can do so. But just for now, if you want to continue with your research, hoping things will improve eventually, you might have a look at a couple of my blogposts , that is, if you want to pursue the question, how many Earl Grey orphans came before the courts? Ten per cent? fifteen ? More? What do you think? Is this worth doing?
One of the posts is called ‘Miss D. Meanors’
And the other is ‘More court cases’. Some of the problems I have with the topic, i mention briefly at the end of this second one. https://wp.me/p4SlVj-25B
You will notice in these posts how i am indebted to a young researcher, Julie Poulter. Maybe approach Julie to ask her about her project, ‘Orphans on the streets of Sydney’. She has a new website, http://www.quirkycharacters.com.au
That is the best way to get hold of her. You might like to ask her about her methods, and how she confirms it is Earl Grey orphans she’s found in the records.
But to begin, let me recap the rich detail of Victorian records. Here are a couple of examples, and problems.
The examples are taken from PROV VPRS 516 Central Register of Female Prisoners (in Melbourne gaol) and PROV VPRS 521 Register of names, Particulars, and descriptions of prisoners received (in Melbourne women’s prison).
PROV is so good these days, researchers can work with many of these records online, establish cross linkages, and prepare beforehand a visit to the records themselves, in North Melbourne, when that becomes possible.
This is just a random selection from,
VPRS 516 Unit 1 (1855-61) Register of female prisoners
Number 34 Annette Skipper born 1831 Ireland per Panama to Sydney 1949 Free married 3 children
82 Margaret Walker b. 1823 Ireland per Lady Kennaway 1848 Free married
115 Mary Ann Bourke, Mary Farrell, Eliza Turner, Eliza Tyrell, Mary Tyrell b. 1823 Dublin per Roman Empress to Adelaide 1848
231 Elizabeth Maher/ Mair b.1832 Clonmell per Lady Kennaway 1848 free widow
454 Sarah Berry b. 1833 Ireland per Diadem free widow
624 Alice Fitzgerald/ Alice Ryan b. 1832 Ireland per Eliza Caroline to Melbourne 1848 free married
886 Margaret Jones 1832 Ireland per Pemberton to Melbourne 1848 free married.
937 Kate Strahan b 1835 Ireland per Diadem to Melbourne 1849, husband in Pentridge.
And from VPRS 521 vol. 1, 1853-57, Register of names, particulars and description of female prisoners. Please note a physical description is provided.
No. 129 October 1854 Amelia Nott New Liverpool 1849 born 1827 Free 3 convictions drunk of slender build fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write two small scars on the bridge of her nose born Jersey married servant 20 October for medical treatment.
Amelia was a frequent visitor to the Melbourne women’s prison. She is there again in February 1855 , number 291 and again no. 295 as Amelia Knott with added detail of her height 5 foot one inch with a front upper tooth decayed, this time fined 20 shillings or 24 hours incarceration.
At number 334 she is described as a habitual drunkard, and at 472 she says she arrived by the New Liverpool arriving in 1850. She is there again at numbers 597 and 601, 883, 916, 1009, 1125, recording she had eleven previous convictions and her sentence increasing in severity, 3 calendar months 10 December 1855 to 10 March 1856.
Or Julia Driscoll 402 per Eliza Caroline 1848 born 1834, five foot five and a half inches, stout, fresh dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write slight scar top of nose Cork RC married felony for trial sent to Police Office April 1855.
She appears again at 412 , for stealing a shawl and is sent to prison for a month.
Or Julia Connolly per Eliza Caroline 1849 b. 1835 one previous 5’6” slight brown hair blue eyes neither read nor write Ireland Catholic married imprisoned for one calendar month no means of support.
Or in the next volume, no. 701 Bridget Allen per Pemberton 1851 b. 1932 7 previous 5’2” stout sallow brown hair grey eyes non literate Ireland Protestant married Williamstown to be kept lunacy 10 October 1857 sent to Yarra Bend 1 April 1858.
There are literally hundreds of such cases in Victorian prison records, of women found guilty of minor crimes, drunk and disorderly, without visible means of support, idle and disorderly, obscene language and the like. And despite the names of orphan ships appearing regularly, their date of arrival is rarely accurate. Did they forget or were some of them former convicts from Van Diemen’s land trying to pass themselves off as orphans. Many of them are married. Does that mean we will find them in early church records, or by ‘marriage’ do the the women mean common law marriage?
It seems to me that is a tough challenge. To establish that these women prisoners in Melbourne gaol in the 1850s, were in fact Earl Grey famine orphans is a formidable, even thankless, task”.
“I’m so glad you brought that up Trevor. I’ve been thinking the same; I’d be spending so much time and getting such a small return for my efforts. Maybe i would find the percentage of orphans was greater than the 10% most people suggest, maybe not. No big ting.
I’m still not sure how to to tell you what I’ve been thinking. I’m very interested in the research papers and notes you gave me on ‘Irish women before the law’ and wondered if i should do my thesis on that. I’ve jotted down a few things, basically focussing on one particular example to illuminate the ‘crime’ i had in mind. Here then are my first thoughts,
Mt Rennie and rape, NSW:
Johanna Sullivan, infanticide, concealment of birth, abortion, South Australia:
Ellen Thompson, murder, Queensland:
Some i haven’t examples for yet,
Inheritance, marriage and divorce:
Misdemeanours, prostitution, vagrancy, drunk and disorderly, petty theft, obscene language:
Activism, women and labour legislation, women and the vote. When are women ‘allowed’ to become lawyers Do you know?
My worry is that i have no training in the law, and little knowledge of the law in colonial Australia”.
“Same here, Kirsty. But when did that stop anyone? Let me ask around to see if there is someone who can help. Being interested and excited by your research project is very important”.