Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary
of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles
Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine
Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?
Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are members of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania, but with a membership worldwide. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.
In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available, the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.
Johanna Esmon (1802?-?)
by Cheryl Griffin
Johanna Esmon, ‘woman of colour’ and convict, was born in Barbados in the British Caribbean. On 20 January 1836, aged 34, she was tried in Demerara (now Guyana) on the north coast of South America. For most of her lifetime, Demerara had been a British colony and it is probable that she moved from one British colony to the other because she was a slave.
A nursemaid by trade, she was tried for stealing clothes. Sentenced to 14 years’ transportation, she was sent firstly to England, then to New South Wales on board the Elizabeth (5), arriving in Sydney on 12 Oct 1836.
The 1837 muster places her with Mr Stack of Sydney, probably Rev William Stack, a Church of England clergyman who arrived in Sydney with his wife Martha on 31 October 1837. The couple moved to Maitland almost immediately, so it is likely that Johanna moved with them.
She did not apply to marry and the last sighting of her was when she was granted a ticket of leave in 1843. It appears that like so many other convicts, she served her sentence without incident then disappeared from view.
Cheryl Griffin, ‘Whitewashing Australia’s convict experience: from the British Caribbean to New South Wales', in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 131-147.
© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.