Convict Lives: Female Convicts at the New Norfolk Asylum
Edition: 1st Edition.
Published 2021. Pages: 220.
Edited by Dianne Snowden and Jane Harrington.
Printed by Foot & Playsted, Launceston, Tasmania.
The sixth publication in the series of Convict Lives in Van Diemen’s Land recounts the lives of 15 convict women who spent time at the New Norfolk Asylum for the Insane in the 19th century. The stories highlight there is much more to the life of a convict than a crime, trial and sentence. Seven of the authors are descendants of these women and share family stories of fractured and fragmented lives.
In 1859, the Commissioners of the Hospital of the Insane at New Norfolk wrote:
It must be borne in mind that a large majority of the patients … confined in the asylum have been of the convict class, the offspring of diseased parents, inheriting in very many cases a defective intellect, brought up from the earliest childhood in misery and vice, and leading in after years a life of sensual debauchery and crime, resulting in enfeeblement alike of body and mind—a more hopeless class of subjects it would be impossible to collect together in one institution.
Convict Lives: Female Convicts at the New Norfolk Asylum explores the veracity of this statement. By using archival material and family records, the book’s 22 authors reconstruct the lives of individual convict women.
They explore not only the reasons for admission but the treatment of the women while there. Seven of the authors, descendants of convict women admitted to the Asylum, share their family stories—of fractured and fragmented lives, of heartbreak and resilience. The narratives of the convict women admitted to the New Norfolk Asylum highlight that there is much more to the life of a convict than a crime, trial and sentence.
This book sensitively examines a neglected topic of female convict history and, in doing so, advances an understanding of the complexities of mental illness and intellectual disability in the nineteenth century.
Voyage/Pre-existing mental illness
Mother and son
Deaths an overview