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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women by Deborah J. Swiss

The Tin Ticket is an enthralling examination of the lives of women convicts who were sentenced to deportation to Van Dieman's Land (modern Tasmania) and who, along with the many male convicts, became part of the founding generations of Australia.

The book focuses on four women convicted of minor crimes and sentenced first to the horrors of Newgate prison (Ludlow Tetter's young daughter accompanied her to prison and to Van Dieman's Land), then to the four month sea journey in disgusting conditions, to arrive in Van Dieman's land and be incarcerated in the House of Corrections where they endured hard labor and shocking abuses.

The treatment of the poor in general and poor women and children in particular, the ways in which they were exploited and mistreated may come as a surprise even to Australians who are well aware of the convict past that helped populate the land.  What passed for justice in the UK was often a way to remove the poor from their doorstep and deposit them where slave labor was needed.  "Under the Transportation Act of 1718, 162,000 women, men and children were exiled to Australia from 1788 to 1868."  At least 25,000 exiles were women.

The sentences were generally for seven years.  Seven years of hard labour, mistreatment, sexual abuse, separation from their children, and more, for crimes of petty theft or forgery.  Stealing a loaf of bread to feed one's children could easily mean not only imprisonment, but exile.

My only complaint is the way the author tries to "novelize" certain segments, but her research is thorough and well-documented, the book is informative and fascinating, and the ultimate triumph that many of these women achieved is amazing given the circumstances.

The following video shows some interviews with descendants of some of the women.

This book is another book that I read during October/November and am just now getting around to reviewing.

The Tin Ticket was an ARC from Jocelyn Kelley of Kelley and Hall.  Thank you very much for the opportunity to read this book.  

Nonfiction.  History.  2011. 352 pages.


  1. This subject matter sounds really interesting! On to the wish list. :)

  2. Kailan - The book is an eye-opener. It is hard to imagine what those women endured!

  3. I had this book out from the library for a while but had to return it unread. I should request it again.

  4. Marg - Reading about the conditions of the poor, especially the treatment of women and children, is a bit of a stunner. It really is a book worth requesting again.

    Bookfool - By taking four individual women and giving their circumstances, including official documents relating to each, the book gives an individual touch to all of the situations relating to the penal system of the time.