Fast Facts


  • Female convicts transported to the colony of NSW and Van Diemen's’ Land was 24,960.
  • 13 female factory sites in the colony - Parramatta, (2) Newcastle, Bathurst, Port Macquarie (2) Morton Bay (2) Hobart Town, Cascades, Ross, Launceston & George Town - Parramatta was the model and predates the others (c 1818); the Parramatta site earliest female convict site still in existence
  • An estimated 9,000 women went through the Factory system.
  • About 5,000 went through the Parramatta Female Factory.
  • The Factories - so called because: of the work done by women which was all or part of the weaving manufacturing process. Large factories like Parramatta and The Cascades did the whole process from spinning to the final woven product - similar factories did spinning. 
  • Work - the women spun and wove wool, linen and linsey woolsey for blankets, slop clothing, sails and woollen stockings; they also did straw plaiting for articles such as bonnets, laundry for colonists and sewing as well as domestic duties in the factory. 
  • Factory period was 1804-1856 with the first Female Factory c1804 in gaol Green (Prince Alfred Square) Parramatta in a room above the gaol which held 9 looms and 40 common wheels, where women worked and slept. 
  • Second Parramatta Female Factory was the first purpose - built factory for convict women. Three main factory phases were:
  • Greenway design - first stone laid by Governor Lachlan Macquarie 9th July, 1818. The first women moved in February 1821.
  • Governor Brisbane commissioned new building: 3rd class (still onsite - c1823)
  • The factory closed as a factory 1848, the Asylum period began
  •  Children of the factory women - some women were able to bring their children when transported. Many women left children behind. Children were removed   from their mothers from the age of 3 - girls went to the Female Orphan School and boys to the Orphan school at Cabramatta - Catholic children were placed in the Roman Catholic Orphan School (c 1840's)
  •  Riots - the factory was the site of possibly the first female workers riot in Australia in 1827. Other riots have been identified 1832, (2) 1833, 1836 & 1843 Reasons included: discontent, reduction in food rations.  
  • Factory Functions: a lying-in hospital, a location for marriage applications; place from where women were assigned or placed after returning from an assignment; a factory ; a place of secondary punishment or colonial crime; by 1830's women were sent to the factory from ship. 
  • Hospital Function: first dedicated health service in colony of NSW; common diseases treated were lung complaints, typhus, gaol fever and diphtheria.  
  • Factory Classes were 1st class (returning from or awaiting assignment), 2nd class (minor offences, moved up from 3rd class) 3rd class or crime class - women who had re-offended or who were repeatedly insolent , demotion to 3rd class occurred and promotion on merit to 2nd or 1st class. 
  • Punishment included hard labour such as rock breaking; picking oakum which is a preparation of tarred rope fibre used in shipbuilding, confinement in solitary cells with diet of bread and water and head shaved, all of this to control behaviour.  
  • Legacy: women demonstrated tenacity and resilience despite loss, dislocation and trauma of separation, survival against all the odds, they questioned authority, valued their mateship, which is all part of the “Australian” character today. “Herstory”, the story of the women is a significant Australia Story - an estimated 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 Australian are descended from these women.