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The Female Factory

Report by Judith O'Donohue

The Parramatta Female Factory is the oldest surviving convict women’s site in Australia. Our group was lucky enough to have Parramatta historian Judith Dunn as our guide.


Built by convict men between1818 and 1821, this multi-purpose institution served the colony of N.S.W. until 1848 as a refuge for women, children, elderly and sick women, a marriage bureau, a women’s hospital for the convicted and the free and so much more. Although this was the second factory at Parramatta this was purpose built and the one all other factories in Australia were based on.


There were three classes. The first class was mainly the newly arrived convicts needing accommodation and employment. They were also eligible to be chosen by a settler for marriage off the production line. Second class women were not eligible for assignment to a master and had inferior food, clothing, rights and privileges than their first class counterparts. Females of the criminal class had to do hard labour befitting a male convict and had their hair shaved. This had long term effects on their prospects of reassignment and marriage state.


Australia’s first women’s hospital was in stark contrast as here the sick and injured and expectant mothers received care. Children were permitted to stay with their mothers until they were 3(or younger) and then they were sent to the orphan school. And they called them the good old days!

                                           A few photos from our visit

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