Saturday, 2 July 2016

Jane Castings - The Class System and the Cascade Female Factory (NON FICTION)

In Jane's Story it is mentioned that she is a 3rd Class prisoner when she is sent from the Cascade Female Factory to complete 6 months Probation on HMS Anson - the convict hulk ship moored on the Derwent River in Hobart.

On the 101 Tasmania website (1) under the categories of History and Heritage and The
Cascade Female Factory it describes the Female Factory as: 
        Australia's most significant site associated with female convicts. Located in the shadow of Mt Wellington, and only a short distance from Hobart city, the Cascades Female Factory was a self-contained, purpose-built institution intended to reform female convicts, where the inmates did laundry and needlework services, offsetting some of the Colony's penal costs. 

The Cascades Female Factory is now on the World Heritage list as one of 11
historic places that form The Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property.
Thousands of women and children were imprisoned here, and many never left. 
In late July 2010, it was announced that 11 Australian convict sites, five of which are
Tasmanian, were to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 
The sites include Port Arthur and the Coal Mines Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula; the Cascade Female Factory in South Hobart; Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island; and Woolmers and Brickendon Estates near Longford. The sites offer some of the best-kept records of convict history anywhere in the world. Visitors to Tasmania ... are ... able to follow the convict trail and trace their ancestors back in time.

THE CLASS SYSTEM is explained on the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site (2) :
Just days after the first women were relocated to Cascades, the Rules and Regulations for the management of the House of Correction were issued to the Principal Superintendent.
The rules outlined the staff required to manage the establishment: a Superintendent, a Matron, an Overseer and Task Mistress for the Crime Class, a Porter, a Clerk and two Constables. They also stipulated how the women were to be divided, in both class and duties. Arthur insisted that the women be placed in three distinct classes that ‘on no account be suffered to communicate with each other’.
  1. The first class was to consist of women recently arrived from England who exhibited good behaviour on the journey – as reported by the surgeon on-board, as well as those returning from service with good characters and those who had successfully seen out their probation in second class. This class alone was considered assignable, and the women were sent to service when the appropriate employment could be obtained.
  2. The second class was to comprise those who had been guilty of minor offences and those who, by their improved conduct, merited removal from the crime class.
  3. The third class known as the crime class was the lowest rung on the ladder, comprised of women who had been transported for a second time, those guilty of misconduct on their journey to the colony, convicted of offences before the Supreme Court, or those who committed offences within the walls of the establishment.

The class system regulated both clothing and daily tasks of the women while in the
The first class (or more trustworthy) women were employed as cooks, task overseers and hospital attendants. 
Second class convicts were employed in making clothes for the establishment and preparing and mending linen. 
The crime class was sentenced to the washtub, laundering for the factory, the orphan school and the penitentiary; they also carded and spun wool. 
All of these tasks were subject to change at the discretion of the Principal Superintendent.

November to March saw unrelenting hours of labour, with the shorter days in winter being the only solace. With the sun not setting until after dinner for a large part of the year, the women were labouring up to 12 hours a day and even the slightest disobedience to the rules was punishable.
          “Females guilty of disobedience of orders, neglect of work, profane, obscene,
or abusive language, insubordination, or other turbulent or disorderly or
disrespectful conduct, shall be punished by the superintendent with close
confinement in a dark or other cell, until her case shall be brought under
consideration of the Principal Superintendent.” – Rules & Regulations, 1829.

Photograph of a barred cell window in the wall of the Cascade Female Factory.                Private Collection

In the article 'Backward Glances' by G.P. (3) there are good descriptions of the goings on in the Cascade Female Factory: 
           The prison dress was uniform, consisting of a dark brown serge, close fitting white cotton cap, and coloured cotton neckerchief. On the jackets of those in the crime class were sewn two large letters C, cut out of scarlet cloth; the one being fixed on the right sleeve, and the other on the back. 
The women were employed in picking, carding, and spinning wool, and the whirr of the wheels was heard all day long, producing fine yarn for the purpose of being woven into the rough material from which the garments of the male convicts were manufactured.

The washing for the hospital and the King's Orphan Schools—the latter only recently established—was all done in the 'House', and the premises appropriated to the latter occupation were rather extensive. Still the work in which they were employed was not laborious, and there were several hours in the summer days in which the women wandered listlessly about the yards.

The dietary scale was very meagre, the rations per head per diem being one pound of coarse brown bread, and half a pound of meat (bone included) with one pint of 'skilley' (a thin porridge or soup) each morning and evening. In addition to the meat at dinner, there was served out a pint of water in which the latter was cooked, slightly thickened with flour. On one day in the week, one pint of pea soup well made and nourishing was substituted for the meat allowance. 

Such as it was it appeared to satisfy the women, or they made up their minds to bow to the force of circumstances.

PUNISHMENT - Confinement
In describing the penal character of the institution, it may be affirmed that one of the
most severe modes of punishment—although comparatively short in duration—was
confinement in the cells. These were situated on the ground floor of an isolated building, and hemmed in by stone walls in which no opening existed through which a single ray of light could penetrate. 

A massive iron-bound door in the stone wall opened into a long narrow corridor, on one side of which were eight cells, in size about six feet by four. Each cell had its own door which was bolted and locked on the outside. A similar door, corridor, and cells adjoined, each divided from the other by a thick stone wall, thus providing accommodation for sixteen inmates. 

Cold, damp, dark as Egyptian night, and silent as a vault, the entombed wretch, after being supplied with her allowance of a pound of bread and small 'piggin' of water, was left to her own reflections and introspection. For one half-hour out of the twenty-four, the occupant was allowed to walk in a solitary yard, taking nearly the whole of the short respite to accustom her eyes to the blinding sunlight ere she was again shut up in her dungeon.

The ordinary term of sentence was one week, but in a great number of instances the penalty imposed was fourteen days. Confinement in the cells was invariably the introduction—kind of appetiser—to a longer or shorter period of imprisonment in the crime class.

PUNISHMENT - The Iron Collar
Another form of punishment that was only resorted to in cases of violent insubordination was the iron collar. This instrument of torture (I use the term advisedly) was formed of a band of iron of about an inch and a half in depth, opening by a hinge at the back and, being clasped round the neck, was fastened in front by a padlock. 
From this collar band projected four iron spikes of about a foot in length tapering off and terminating in sharp points, the whole weight of iron resting on the collar bones of the woman being as supposed, peculiarly painful and irritating. 

No alleviation of the terrible and dreaded torture was provided for in the sentence recorded, but the humane feelings of one of the superintendents—to whom the punishment was particularly distasteful—and who, I may say in passing, was altogether too sensitive for his position— supplied relief, as far as it was possible, in the form of padding, to make the punishment easier to be borne. 
The term for wearing the collar was from 24 to 60 hours, and was intended to be continuous; but as it was impossible for the unhappy sufferer to take rest in sleep, this official chose to incur the risk of censure by having it removed at night and replaced in the morning.

There was also another collar, lighter in weight, having longer spikes of 3/8 round iron,
each spike terminating in a knob. This was for those who were of a pugilistic turn, the
knobs answering the same purpose, I presume, as those placed on the horns of cattle to prevent them from goring their fellows. This punishment was very rarely inflicted.

For all those sentenced to the cells or crime class there was invariably a preliminary ordeal to be gone through in the loss of their hair. The reason stated was to control infestations of lice. It certainly was a sight to arouse one's pity to witness the long flowing raven or auburn locks falling to the ground to the rhythmic snipping of the barber's great shears. 

The women looked upon it as a barbarous, personal outrage—a degrading humiliation. Many who would have borne stolidly any other kind of punishment shed bitter tears over the loss of their hair; some fainted, and now and then one would fight like a tigress for the retention of her highly valued and petted locks, and the operation had to be performed under the persuasive influence of physical force.

HIRING of women
For some days after the arrival of a female prison ship, a stranger, looking on from the outside, would have concluded that the 'Factory' was 'en fete'. Vehicles of every description then used might be seen driving up to the gates and setting down the—well, I will make one word do for the wives of the wealthy, the middle class and the humble artisan, and style them all ladies. The ladies, then, alighted from their vehicles, and producing their orders for servants on assignment, the women were called in one by one and put through their catechism. "Can you wash?" "Can you sew?" "Can you get up fine linen?" "Can you cook?" "Are you fond of children?" etc. 
After thus examining some half dozen a choice was made, and mistress and servant drove off together. Before the close of a week by far the larger portion of the human consignment was distributed amongst and in the homes of their masters in both town and country.

As a rule the women were submissive and orderly. Individual cases of insubordination occurred, but they were promptly suppressed and punished.



(1) 101 Tasmania,101Must Do's>History and Heritage>The Cascades Female Factory.

(2) Cascades Female Factory Historic Site>History>Life in the Cascades Female
Factory. at:

(3) TROVE, Launceston Examiner, ''Backward Glances' by G.P, Number 3 (Saturday,
19th November 1892) Line 39.

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