PostHeaderIcon A Cargo of Women

A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the convicts of the Princess Royal. 2nd edition Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2009.  First published in hardback by University of New South Wales Press, Sydney 1988

cargo Intrigued to discover a convict in her family tree, Babette Smith decided to investigate her ancestor's  life and the lives of the 99 women who were transported with her on the Princess Royal in 1829. The  result was a groundbreaking study of female convicts sent to the Australian penal colonies.

 In 1988 it was published in to critical acclaim. Described as 'a lasting contribution to Australian  history', the book was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Awards. This second edition with additional  information and illustrations was published in 2009.

 Piece by piece, she reveals the story of her ancestor, the indomitable Susannah Watson who, trapped  in the crowded filthy  slums of Nottingham, stole because she 'could not bear to see her children  starving'. Separated forever from her husband and four children, she was transported for 14 years but  served 16. She endured the convict system at its worst, yet survived to die in her bed aged 83 singing 'Rock of Ages'.

The originality of A Cargo of Women is enhanced by the inclusion of 15 previously unpublished letters written by Susannah Watson.

What they said about A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the convicts of the Princess Royal:

 ...a fascinating detailed account of life for 100 convict women in early New South Wales. Their hardships, their resiliences, their courage, are graphically portrayed
Patricia Grimshaw, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne

Smith comes as close as any historian has come to reconstructing the complex experience of a convict woman... an absorbing story. Kay Daniels, Australian Historical Studies

An absorbing and highly readable account of 1100 female prisoners...Based on wide research, it analyses in fascinating detail their varied background and experiences. The result is a full, rounded picture that adds significantly to our understanding of the female convicts, the conditions under which they served their sentences and the lives they subsequently led.
Brian H. Fletcher, Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, University of Sydney

Babette Smith's insightful examination of the women from the Princess Royal concluded that for most of these women Australia was 'not the fatal shore at all, but a second chance.'   Catie Gilchrist, 'Limits of Repression'

'...a rich picture of existence and the negotiations that made life what it was in England and the colony.Deborah Oxley, 'Convict Maids'

'One who tries to do more than generalise is Babette Smith... as Norma Townsend puts it in her review is "a painstaking piecing together of the minute detail of lives which would otherwise have been lost in the great sea of humanity.'    A.G.L. Shaw, former Professor of History at Monash University

Historian Professor Alan Atkinson found value in the fictional version too:    [Her] two books about convict women, one fact and one fiction and both called 'A Cargo of Women', are among the finest evocations of convict life to have been written in Australia - and that means anywhere.' Sydney Morning Herald