These women experienced unimaginable hardship. They lost all rights to their children, who were removed and placed in the Orphan School. Anne Mullins was one of these women, says Judith. Her two children had been taken away but she was allowed to visit them. She was jailed for returning late after one visit — a harsh punishment considering the ‘crime’. Asked to give an account of herself in court, she said: “You must know that my name is Anne Mullins and no mistake. A better washerwoman than me never stood at the tub or made soap lather. I say it that should not say it — I’m a trump. Can anyone here say that I’m not? No! I’ve been a good servant and for this you kick me in the teeth.”
Despite all the crushing odds, they were women of great spirit and the PFF was the site of the first known female workers action in Australia. In October 1827, a group of women broke through the gates when their rations were cut — no tea, no bread, no sugar — and rampaged through the streets chased by armed sergeants with orders to quell the women. Further riots occurred in the following years. These actions and the women’s lives are commemorated annually in October at the site with celebratory walks and other activities.
This year, the Riot Day commemoration was held on Saturday 26 October. Email pmattafemalefactoryactiongroup[at]gmail.com if you would like more details about events as they’re announced.
✻ If your ancestor was sent to Parramatta’s Female Factory and you’d like to contribute information to the database, or if you want to know more about the site itself, contact Gay Hendriksen at convict.female.factories[at]gmail.com
Cascades Female Factory, Tasmania – Click here
Female Convicts Research Centre Inc – Click here
Founders & Survivors, Tasmania – Click here
Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories, NAA – Click here
Parramatta Female Factory Friends – Click here
Parramatta Female Factory – Click here
Parramatta Heritage & Visitor Centre – Click here
State Records of NSW, Convict Indexes – Click here
This article originally appeared in issue 18 of Inside History. Click here for more.