An Interesting piece of history

When people think about the colonization of Australia, i doubt most know about what happened when the female convict ship was unloaded. The women unloaded were given to any man who decided they wanted them, not just as slaves but more as prostitutes. Not as if this is bad enough but the men out numbered the women 586 to 192. The following 2 days after the women were released was a constant parade of degrading sexual abuse where women were repeatedly raped. The leaders of the new colony turned the heads but in the end they came up with a solution, they would send back to England for some more women. This was how the Ship “The Lady Juliana” came to Australia between the first and second fleets. A ship with only female convicts and a male crew. The male crew had the first picks of the women aboard and the rest were left to fend for themselves, this was how The Lady Juliana got her nickname “The Floating Brothel”

The Lady Juliana (also known as the Lady Julian) was a convict ship dispatched from Britain in 1789 to Australia. She was the first convict ship to arrive at Port Jackson in New South Wales after the First Fleet and is sometimes referred to as part of the second fleet and sometimes part of the first. The Lady Juliana was requested by Governor Phillip saying that the shipment of women was ‘absolutely necessary’. He claimed that more women in the settlement would create security and improve morals.


In response to Governor Phillip’s request, 245 female thieves, prostitutes and con-artists and even some infants were taken from prisons all over Britain and put on board the Lady Juliana to be shipped to Sydney Cove on the 29th July 1789. The government wanted these female convicts to serve two purposes, prevent lonely male convicts from ‘engaging in gross irregularities’ and also to help increase the number of the residents in the settlement.

The Lady Juliana took 309 days or ten months to reach Port Jackson, which is one of the slowest journeys ever made by a convict ship. This was because she stopped at Tenerife and St Jago, spent forty-five days at Rio de Janeiro, and nineteen days at the Cape of Good Hope. An account of the trip was kept by a man named John Nicol, who was the ships steward. His record tells the story of the voyage and the convicts on board. Most of these were London prostitutes, but there were some hardened criminals – thieves, receivers of stolen goods and shoplifters.

The ship soon gained the reputation as “The Floating Brothel”, though despite the reputation and the crimes every free man on the ship took a convict as a wife. As the ship stopped at port, many men including those from other ships were “entertained” and the officers in charge of the ship made no attempt to stop the activities. The profits received from these activities were used to gain extra provisions such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The women slept on decks which also contained the ships holding water, human waste and left over food. Many of the women thought of this as better conditions to those they were used to in the London prisons. During the long ten month voyage, only five convicts died, this was a very small number compared to those on the other ships. This was because Rations were properly distributed, the ship was kept clean and fumigated, the women were given free access to the deck, and of course the fresh supplies that were gained from the ports of call helped to keep the crew and convicts healthy and prevent scurvy.


When the Lady Juliana arrived in Port Jackson, the colony was extremely disappointed. They had been expecting a ship full of supplies instead of a ship full of “useless women”. The few provisions left on the Lady Juliana managed to sustain the colony for another two weeks until the arrival of the ‘Justinian’ which was the First ship of the second fleet.


The women who came over to Australia from Britain were able to have opportunities and gain status that would have been impossible back home in Britain. In fact many lived much longer life than what they might have. One of these convict women was Ann Davis, convicted of stealing a gown, five caps and other clothing, she was sentenced to seven years in Australia. She was bought to Australia when she was only 16, and is one of the most well-known convicts. During her life, Ann had about four partners and five children. Ann managed to outlive her husband Simon Mould and live to the age of 80. Which even for today is a very old age, as the life expectancy of an average Australian male as of 2002 was 77 and the average for an average Australian female was 83. Ann Davis was also my ancestor.

I wrote this essay on The Lady Juliana in my history class back in 2009 and I’m posting it because i think it is an extremely interesting unknown part of our history.


No, no – surely not! My God – not more of those damned whores! Never have I known worse women. Was this statement correct?

On sighting the Lady Juliana of the Second Fleet coming into Sydney Harbour with over two hundred female convicts aboard, L.T. Ralph Clark of the First Fleet was quoted “No, no – surely not! My God – not more of those damned whores! Never have I known worse women.” The women aboard the convict ship ‘Lady Juliana’ were given a reputation as being prostitutes and whores, and the ship was even given the nickname ‘The Floating Brothel’. The ship was rumoured to have stopped at ports and allowed men aboard in exchange for fresh goods such as fruit. However though the ship had this reputation, it is unknown exactly how many of these women were actually prostitutes, most of the reputations stemmed from the views of biased men.

It was not only the women aboard the Lady Juliana that had the reputation of being prostitutes, the women of the early Australian colony were almost all put into the category of whores. This came from the fact that most of the women brought to Australia were brought there as convicts. As the early settlers views taught them that all women could be categorised as either good or evil, any convict woman was instantly evil, and therefore a whore. This stereotype was produced from the first prototype of each type, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. These stereotypes were not always correct and gave many innocent women ugly reputations.

As the colony continued to develop, instead of realising that these stereotypes were wrong, the social structure that developed within the colony reinforced these views. This meant that even convicts who had served their full sentence and became free citizens were still being defined by the original narrow-minded stereotype, which came to be applied to not just the convict women but also women who had never been transported. This meant that though women who had served sentences as convicts, and been released, these women could not make an honest living, this caused many of them to become prostitutes and such, which only reinforced the men’s biased views of them.

When the First Fleet arrived in Australia on the 20th January 1788, there was a total of 1480 people on board. Most of these were convicts, 586 male and 192 female convicts. Very few of the free men who also arrived with the First Fleet brought their wives and families along. This very small proportion of women caused some problems among the colony. The first women served only one purpose to the colony, sexual gratification. Abuse towards the women of the colony began on the ships on their way to Australia. Though the women were kept on separate ships from the male convicts, it was reported by W.H.R Brown in 1819 that he had been told several complaints by the women and even some shipmates. These complaints consisted of tales of beating, public whippings whilst the women were nude, and verbal insults and abuse. It has also been reported that the most desirable of the convict women were separated from the other women for “the vilest purposes”. There were also complaints towards Thomas Arndell, a ships assistant surgeon, who was accused of seducing girls whilst treating them for the fever and using his surgery as a floating whore-house.

When the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson, the women were kept on the ships for an extra five days whilst the ships were unloaded. When the women were finally released, Governor Phillip turned a blind eye to the two days of degrading sexual abuse that followed. One settler wrote back home, “It will perhaps scarcely be believed that, on the arrival of a female convict ship, the custom has been to suffer the inhabitants of the colony each to select one at his pleasure, not only as servants but as avowed objects of intercourse, which is without even the plea of the slightest previous attachment as an excuse, rendering the whole colony little better than an extensive brothel…” T.W Plummer to colonel Macquarie, Park Street, Westminster, 4 May 1809, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 7, p. 120. The 1812 Select Committee on Transportation reported that female convicts “were indiscriminately given to such of the inhabitants who demanded them, and were in general received as rather as prostitutes than as servants.” Clark, select Documents… 1850, p. 114.

These statements seem to reinforce the original statement of “No, no – surely not! My God – not more of those damned whores! Never have I known worse women.” By L.T. Ralph Clark. Though I believe it was not the women who made this statement correct but the way the colony viewed them that forced them to become this.


~ by Nikki on June 1, 2012.

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