Miss Julia Allen: A Female Factory Inmate

By Michaela Ann Cameron

A Silver-Tongued Servant

“You’re a dirty, disagreeable, detrimental little devil — a foul mouthed evil-speaking, sanctified, contonkerous coxcomb, and I’ll be damned before I work for you!”[1]

Mr. Owen was undoubtedly flabbergasted at this display of insolence and exceptional wordsmithery from his house servant “Miss Julia Allen,”[2] who ought to have been scrubbing his floors instead of gallivanting about the Sydney streets. After all, Miss Julia was not your average disgruntled employee standing up for her rights; as far as Mr. Owen was concerned, she had none.

The feisty Irish colleen from Cork was a convict[3] who was required by law to earn back her freedom with seven long years of forced servitude in the foreign land of New South Wales. With three years remaining on her sentence, she had no right to come and go without so much as a “Good-bye”[4] for her master and mistress, or to shirk her duties and insult her betters, yet this is precisely what the impertinent young woman repeatedly did do.

Only a week before that unseemly exchange, the exasperated Owens had hauled Miss Julia before the Bench for absconding. On that occasion, the wayward house servant had been “forgiven on promising amendment.”[5] However, as noted by a journalist, who evidently did not hold women in high regard as a general rule, “women’s promises are said to be nearly allied to pie crusts, and so Julia’s proved, for she first forgot, and then broke them.”[6] This time, she had been illegally at large for three days and had made her master the subject of that most unflattering—but delightfully alliterative—word-portrait.

1831-05-05 - Julia Allen
“Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1831 p.2
1831-05-09 - Julia Allen
“Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald, Monday 9 May 1831, p.3

Though Miss Julia was, “according to her own account,…immaculate”[7] and, thus, refused to degrade herself by working for such a beastly man, it seems she was not above bargaining with the Bench. At her second court appearance on Wednesday 5 May 1831, she presented the Bench with “a second edition of her promises.”[8] The sitting Magistrates, however, “declined placing any faith in them, and sentenced her to ruminate on her broken vows for six weeks…[in] the third class of Mrs. Gordon’s villa”[9] — also known as the Parramatta Female Factory.

Miss Julia’s raven hair was shorn upon entering the Female Factory’s prison class. This punishment was first introduced in 1826[10] to visibly identify the most disobedient women among the convict class and to humiliate by depriving them of what was then an essential feature of their female identities. “It used to be the custom to burn the hair in [the] presence of the owner”[11] post-cropping, wrote a journalist in The Sydney Monitor on 1 June 1831, less than a month after Julia’s incarceration in the Factory. However, “a traffic of a singular nature” was being “carried on by some person attached to the Female Factory” at the time —“namely the sale of the women’s hair.”[12] Such, then, was the fate of Julia’s locks. Rather than suggesting the abolition of the head-shaving practice, the reporter merely stated, “if the hair is sold, it is but fair that the owner should receive the nett proceeds.[13] It is unlikely that Miss Julia was ever reimbursed.

1831-06-01
Hair Trafficking: “Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW: 1828 – 1838), Wednesday 1 June 1831 p.3

A Master Wordsmith

Perhaps Miss Julia had honed her skills as a wordsmith during her previous assignment as house servant to one Mr. David Poole Esquire, a resident of Castlereagh Street, Sydney.[14]

Upon being admitted as a Supreme Court solicitor on 15 August 1828—the same year Julia was assigned to him—Poole was immediately proclaimed in the public newspaper “an old hand at the law.”[15]

1828-08-18
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842) Monday 18 August 1828, p.2

No great leap is required to conclude from even this scant evidence that Poole was likely to have been extraordinarily eloquent, in possession of a fine vocabulary, and to have known his way around an argument. As Poole’s house servant, going about her daily chores in her master’s environment, Julia was bound to have incidentally overheard his articulate conversations and debates with others. It is not inconceivable that she unconsciously absorbed or maybe even deliberately saved bits of his vocabulary and phrasing for future use.

How long Julia was in Poole’s employ or under what circumstances she was reassigned is unknown. Julia appeared as Poole’s house servant at Castlereagh Street in the census of November 1828.[16] Given that she had only arrived in the colony aboard the all-female convict ship City of Edinburgh on 12 November 1828, Julia was therefore probably assigned to Poole as soon as she disembarked.[17] She was roughly 28 years old at the time and, one of her records reveals, not “Miss Julia” at all but “Mrs Judith”; the wife of Robert Reed, “a boot and shoemaker in America,” and mother to an unnamed child she never saw again.[18]

Poole must have been a good master, either due to kindness or because he knew how to keep his servants in check. For, despite being well acquainted with the law, Poole does not appear to have found it necessary to place Julia in a position to become the star of any newspaper columns devoted to “Police Incidents.” Indeed, aside from her original conviction in Cork, Ireland on 15 March 1827 for “stealing crêpe”[19]—a type of lightweight fabric typically used in that era for black mourning clothes—Julia did not appear to have a blemish on her record until 1831 when she was assigned to the “dirty, disagreeable, detrimental little devil,”[20] Mr Owen, and his lawful rib,[21] Mrs. Owen.

Short and Sweet

When Miss Julia completed her first stint in the Female Factory in the middle of June 1831, did her former master and mistress, the Owens, welcome the newly cropped con back into their home? If they did so, it seems Julia was soon returned to Government and reassigned; for seven months later, on Wednesday 4 January 1832, Julia found herself before the Bench once more, this time as “an assigned servant to Mrs. Palmer.”[22]

Miss Julia, the habitual absconder, was up to her old tricks again — as was the woman-hating journalist of The Sydney Gazette.[23] “Give a woman an inch, and she’ll take an ell,” wrote the “Police Incidents” columnist regarding Julia’s shenanigans.[24] “Mrs. P. gave [Julia] permission to go out for one hour, and she stopped three,” during which she got herself into a good and proper “state of intoxication.”[25] As punishment, the Bench “assigned her a situation in the factory for a month.”[26] Accordingly, Julia, whose hair had had little chance to recover from its first close shave, was transferred from the Sydney Gaol to the Parramatta Female Factory’s prison sector where she was “barberised”[27] again on 6 January 1832.[28]

1832-01-07 - Julia Allen
“Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1831 p.2

Unlike his Sydney Gazette counterpart, the Sydney Herald’s reporter recognised the vibrant spirit housed in Miss Julia’s “stout,” five-foot-nothing corporeal form.[29] Writing three days into Julia’s incarceration in the Factory, he endearingly referred to her as “Judy…a pert little dame”[30] and was able to find the comedy in Julia’s activities whilst she was illegally at large. “Judy,” he wrote, had been “found in a public-house, where a “swell” was assuring her she had a charming method of making punch.”[31] Upon receiving her sentence of one month in the prison class of the Factory, the amused journalist recalled, Judy had “dropped a curtsey and said, “Sweet gentle Sirs, adieu.””[32] One can only imagine what the third class sleeping quarters would have been like in the height of summer: two floors with precious little ventilation, jam-packed with 200 or more female prisoners and infants still too young to be sent to the orphan schools. It would have been a breeding ground for disease. Four convict children died in the Factory in the month of Julia’s incarceration alone.[33]

IMG_4830
The third-class sleeping quarters at the Parramatta Female Factory, where Julia would have slept with 200 other incarcerated women and their infants. This building was commissioned by Governor Brisbane in 1824. Photo: Michaela Ann Cameron (2014)

It was just as well that the light-hearted reporter who could appreciate Miss Julia’s lively spirit was the last to write about her. “Sweet gentle Sirs, adieu” were the last recorded words of our convict wordsmith. And that final police incident celebrating her sassiness turned out to be an unofficial eulogy. On 21 April 1832, a little over two months after her release from the Female Factory, the pert little Irish dame who had been so full of spunk died in Sydney’s General Hospital.[34] She was, at most, 32 years old.

1832-01-09 - Judy Allen
“Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842), Monday 9 January 1832, p.3

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Michaela Ann Cameron, “Miss Julia Allen: A Female Factory Inmate,” The Old Parramattan, (2016),  https://theoldparramattan.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/judith-julia-allen-a-female-factory-inmate/ accessed [insert current date]

REFERENCES

Michaela Ann Cameron, “Parramatta Female Factory,” Dictionary of Sydney (2015) http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/parramatta_female_factory accessed 1 June 2016

Trove

NOTES

[1]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 – 1842) Monday 9 May 1831, p.3

[2] This paper works on the assumption that these were Julia’s words and not the embellishments or complete fabrications of a Sydney Herald journalist showcasing his own wordy wares in the regular “Police Incidents” newspaper column. It is, admittedly, shaky ground; when read in bulk, this particular type of column invited a sense of outrageous wordplay on the part of the reporters, especially since the column was found in rival newspapers and the journalists were often writing up the same incidents and may have been trying to “outdo” one another. Having said this, the incidents are not all consistently brilliant, even within a single edition of the column, suggesting that the reporter’s main priority was not to “show off” by diverging from the facts of what was said and done (or this would have been done on every “incident”) but to report with some level of accuracy. Further evidence to support this latter statement includes police incident reports that not only transcribe what was said in court but how it was said by representing the defendants’ accents and comical mispronunciation of words phonetically.

[3] New South Wales Government, Bound manuscript indents, 1788–1842, NRS 12188, microfiche 614–619,626–657, 660–695, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4]Police Report,The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Thursday 5 May 1831, p.2

[5]Police Report,The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Thursday 5 May 1831, p.2

[6]Police Report,The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Thursday 5 May 1831, p.2

[7]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 – 1842) Monday 9 May 1831, p.3

[8]Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Thursday 5 May 1831, p.2

[9]Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Thursday 5 May 1831, p.2; “Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 – 1842) Monday 9 May 1831, p.3

[10] Michaela Ann Cameron, “Parramatta Female Factory,” Dictionary of Sydney, (2015) http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/parramatta_female_factory accessed 31 May 2016

[11]Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW: 1828 – 1838), Wednesday 1 June 1831 p.3

[12]Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW: 1828 – 1838), Wednesday 1 June 1831 p.3

[13]Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW: 1828 – 1838), Wednesday 1 June 1831 p.3

[14] New South Wales Government, Bound manuscript indents, 1788–1842, NRS 12188, microfiche 614–619,626–657, 660–695, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 1-4, 6-18, 28-30); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England

[15]Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW: 1828-1838) Monday 25 August 1828, p.5; The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842) Monday 18 August 1828, p.2

[16] New South Wales Government, 1828 Census: Householders’ returns [Population and Statistics, Musters and Census Records, Census, Colonial Secretary], Series 1273, Reels 2551-2552, 2506-2507, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 21-28); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.

[17] New South Wales Government, Musters and other papers relating to convict ships, Series CGS 1155, Reels 2417-2428, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 1-4, 6-18, 28-30); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Had she not been assigned to a suitable master on arrival, Julia would have been sent down the Parramatta River to the Female Factory; a place she was not lucky enough to avoid long term, as we have already discovered.

[18] New South Wales Government, Bound manuscript indents, 1788–1842, NRS 12188, microfiche 614–619,626–657, 660–695, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[19] Spelt “crape” in the original primary source recording her crime. New South Wales Government, Bound manuscript indents, 1788–1842, NRS 12188, microfiche 614–619,626–657, 660–695, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia

[20]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 – 1842) Monday 9 May 1831, p.3

[21] lawful rib is slang for “wife.”

[22]Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842), Saturday 7 January 1832 p.3

[23] Two Sydney newspapers covered the court appearance but their reports are conflicting in one minor detail. They also seem to emphasise different aspects of the case. It is possible that one of the journalists mixed up the case of Julia Allen with one of the other defendants that day. But, if we ignore the slight contradictions between the two texts, the two versions are not irreconcilable. I have merged them for the purposes of this piece.

[24]Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842), Saturday 7 January 1832 p.3

[25]Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842), Saturday 7 January 1832 p.3

[26]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842), Monday 9 January 1832 p.3

[27]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842), Monday 21 May 1832 p.3 The original text says “barbarised” but this was clearly meant to be “barberised” in reference to the shaving of the head, as seen here in the description of a barber named Cornelius Bryan who “for many years barberised his customer’s chins in a snug little boudoir in Market-street…” “Police Incidents,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842) Saturday 9 January 1836 p.2

[28] New South Wales Government, Entrance books [Sydney Gaol], Series 2514, State Records Reels 850-853, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; New South Wales Government, Description books [Sydney Gaol], NRS 2517, Reels 855-856, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[29] New South Wales Government, Description books [Sydney Gaol], NRS 2517, Reels 855-856, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[30]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842), Monday 9 January 1832, p.3

[31]Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842), Monday 9 January 1832, p.3

[32] She was transferred from Sydney Gaol to the Parramatta Female Factory on 6 January 1832. New South Wales Government, Entrance books [Sydney Gaol]. NRS 2514, Reels 850-853, State Records Authority of New South Wales. Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia

[33] The children who died at the Parramatta Female Factory during the month of Julia’s incarceration were: Ann Welby – January 21 1832 – 22 months; Mary Brien – January 26 – 9 months (the child of one of Julia’s old shipmates from the City of Edinburgh); Brid[get?] McCarthy – February 5 – 13 months; Catherine Welloby – February 5 – 11 weeks. Two women also died at the Factory that month; Margaret Stroud on January 15 and 35-year-old Rose McGorman on January 31. Parish Burial Registers, Textual records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

[34] New South Wales Government, Convict Death Register, Series 12213, SR Reel 690, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

© Michaela Ann Cameron, 2016