Susan Tilley per Francis & Eliza, 1802

Susan Tilley was a 26-year-old woman who arrived in New South Wales in 1802 aboard the convict ship Francis and Eliza. She had been sentenced to transportation for seven years for stealing a dress. Susan had grown up in poverty and had turned to theft to survive.

During the journey to Australia, Susan 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, Susan 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 the difficult circumstances, Susan remained determined to make a new life for herself in Australia.

Over time, Susan’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 1809, Susan’s sentence was commuted, and she was given a full pardon. She used her newfound freedom to start her own dressmaking business, which became very successful. Susan was a well-respected member of the community and used her position to help other female convicts who had also been transported to Australia.

Susan’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, Susan was able to rebuild her life and create a successful business. Her story is a reminder of the potential for redemption and the importance of second chances, even in the most difficult circumstances.

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