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"One of the exciting developments in historical writing in recent times is the rediscovery of women's voices. This is no less true of Irish convict women's voices. Irish women transported to the 'Great Southland' between 1788 and 1853 are an essential part of the work of accomplished historians such as Portia Robinson (Women of Botany Bay, 1988 and 1992), Deborah Oxley (Convict Maids, 1996) and lately, Joy Damousi (Depraved and Disorderly, 1997) and Kay Daniels (Convict Women, 1998).
Yet, as imaginative and ground-breaking as these studies are, and as much as they reflect current values and concerns - be it Portia Robinson's creation of a new Australian identity, Deborah Oxley's exploration of economic origins or Joy Damousi's and Kay Daniels's very different treatment of women's rebelliousness - they do not address a question which is of interest to Irish historians; the impact of the Great Famine on the transportation of Irish women to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania as it is known today).
Portia Robinson's concern is with the period to 1828. Deborah Oxley's is with women transported to New South Wales, a traffic which ended in 1840, and Joy Damousi's attention is directed at the cultural anxieties of convict women in the 1820s and 1830s. She does, however, makeone or two incursions into the late 1840s, the period of interest to Famine historians. We shall return to what she has to say later.
Kay Daniels's Convict Women does encompass the subject we are interested in, convict women in Van Diemen's Land in the late 1840s and early 1850s. But she focuses on 'their experience after (my emphasis) arrival during assignment, confinement and release' and not on their ethnic or any other kind of origins."
This article examines the impact of the Great Famine on the transportation of Ulster women convicts to Vab Diemen's Land (Tasmania).