Monday, March 26, 2012
The Parramatta female factory
It seems likely that my great-great grandmother passed through this place after her arrival in a convict ship. Some comments on it below by His Eminence Archbishop Pell:
Last week I visited the Parramatta convict "Female Factory", built by the ex-convict architect Francis Greenway in 1818.
Five thousand women passed through its door until it closed in 1847, and an action group is working hard now to persuade the government to preserve this historic site.
We need to be reminded how tough the early situation was, how far we have travelled and that we must never return to such a level of cruelty.
Life was difficult beyond our understanding. The women were divided into three classes, with the worst class breaking stones.
For some years unruly women could be flogged, and when money ran out for the ablutions block the women had to wash in the open with water from a few taps.
The punishment cells where women were incarcerated in isolation and fed only bread and water can still be seen, with their small windows high in the walls.
However, not everything was grim and inhumane.
Men outnumbered women four to one and would visit the factory to select a wife _ if she consented.
Orphans and the destitute lived there too and many youngsters were born in the small maternity hospital. Infant mortality worsened when the factory closed.
Some women reoffended in order to return, as conditions were even tougher outside.