Mary Smith per Lady Nelson, 1801

Mary Smith, a 29-year-old woman, arrived in New South Wales on the convict ship “Lady Nelson” in 1801. She had been sentenced to transportation for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread. Mary had grown up in poverty and had resorted to stealing to feed herself and her younger siblings.

During the journey to Australia, Mary was confined to the hold of the ship with other female convicts. The conditions were cramped and unsanitary, with little access to fresh air and water. Many of the women suffered from illnesses such as scurvy and dysentery.

Upon arrival in Sydney, Mary was sent to the Female Factory, a prison for female convicts. She was put to work as a domestic servant for a wealthy family, where she worked long hours for little pay. Despite her difficult circumstances, Mary remained determined to make a new life for herself in Australia.

Over time, Mary’s behavior improved, and she was eventually granted a Ticket of Leave, which allowed her to work and live independently. She started working as a seamstress and soon became known for her skill and creativity. Her talent attracted the attention of other members of the community, and she began receiving commissions from wealthy women for custom-made dresses and accessories.

In 1810, Mary’s sentence was commuted, and she was given a full pardon. She used her newfound freedom to open her own dressmaking business, which became very successful. Mary was a well-respected member of the community and used her position to help other female convicts who had also been transported to Australia.

Mary’s story is a testament to the resilience and determination of women who were transported to Australia as convicts. Despite facing significant challenges and discrimination, Mary was able to rebuild her life and create a successful business. Her story is a reminder of the importance of second chances and the potential for redemption, even in the most difficult circumstances.

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