With eight hundred thousand people in the 18th century, London was the largest city in Europe, where the greatest fortunes of the British Empire could be found and the most miserable neighborhoods in which homeless people, petty thieves, prostitutes... simply survived. Crimes against property were the most frequent in a society marked by great social differences. The threat of death sentences imposed under the Bloody Code (Bloody Code), named for the large number of crimes punishable by death, did not manage to reduce the number of robberies —the damn habit that the poor have to eat every day—. The prisons were overflowing and a new destination had to be found to alleviate the problem of prison overcrowding, since with the Declaration of Independence of the USA in 1766 the flow of remittances from convicts sent to North America was closed. And that new destination was Australia.
In May 1787, the so-called First Fleet departed from Portsmouth:11 ships (9 freighters and 2 warships) with 756 convicts (564 men, 192 women) and 550 more men including officials, midshipmen and crew under the command of Captain Arthur Philip . On January 18, 1788, and after eight months of sailing, they reached Botany Bay . Although, in theory, this was the place to establish the colony in Australia, they found better conditions in Sydney Cove where they finally settled. The new colony had problems from the beginning:diseases such as scurvy and dysentery, sailors and officials involved with inexperienced peasants, few and poor quality construction tools, the cattle they had brought with them were dying, clashes with the aborigines... The news from Australia was not very hopeful, so the British government decided to send a ship of women. This shipment was based on the theory that, for the colony to prosper, it needed stability and it would only be achieved by creating families. And, logically, they needed more women. In addition, this way they "cleaned" the prisons a little more, because they sent two hundred and fifty-five convicts.
On July 29, 1789, the ship Lady Juliana left Plymouth for Australia. with two hundred and fifty-five convicts. The women slept on the lower deck separately from the men, but some of them got better stays by mating and even marrying a member of the crew. There were even those who made that trip a business, like Elizabeth Barnsley , a well-known thief and swindler, who procured some good stays, recruited some prostitutes (who were also among the prisoners) and set up a very lucrative business:a floating brothel. In addition to the crew members and the midshipmen who guarded them, they had many clients in the ports where they called to buy supplies:the Canary Islands, Rio Janeiro, Cape Town... Logically, this voyage took two months longer than the previous one. On June 6, 1790, almost two and a half years after the arrival of the First Fleet, the Lady Juliana arrived in Australia. After the miseries and hardships suffered by the settlers, they thought that a supply ship would arrive, but instead came «a cargo as unnecessary and as unprofitable as 222 women «. Three weeks after the arrival of Lady Juliana, the so-called Second Fleet arrived, made up of four ships and loaded with supplies. Things calmed down. Despite all the adversities and an uncertain future, the women of the Lady Juliana, freed from the restrictions of a classist society, saw her new home as the opportunity for a new life. They were the Founding Mothers of Australia.
It will be easy for some fools to extrapolate from this story that Australians are descended from British prostitutes. In fact, many Australians think so today. You know how easy it is to generalize and make the whole take on the characteristics of a part. Yes, it is true that there were prostitutes on that ship, but more than 80% of them had been convicted of theft. Okay, now it would be very easy to say that they are descendants of thieves or pickpockets. So I will tell you about the case of Mary Wade , the youngest convict aboard the Lady Juliana , so you can see what kind of crime could take you to Australia. At just eleven years old, she was found guilty and sentenced to hang for having stolen, and then sold to eat, a dress —we have already talked about the harshness of the Bloody Code —. After three months in prison, she had her sentence commuted by moving her to Australia. At the time of her death on December 17, 1859, she Mary had over three hundred living descendants and today they number in the tens of thousands, including Kevin Rudd , Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010.
In the new colony, those convicts had to work like men, act as servants for them and on many occasions were treated as simple sexual objects.
The story of the Founding Mothers is a story of survivors.