Esther’s Story, Part Three: The Cascades Female Factory and Brickfields Invalid Depot, 1870-1877

In 1870, a horrific assault took place at the Cascades Female Factory. At eight o’clock in the morning on the 13th of July, a woman named Eliza Osborne beat an elderly woman named Ellen Conway with the iron dinner bell. She hit her in the head so hard that the bell cracked. Ellen Conway was a 73 year old ex-convict who had been sent to the depot for begging. One of the people who rushed to her side to help her was the nurse, Mrs Cecilia Eliza Paul. A few kilometers away (about 25 minutes’ walk), the nurse’s daughter ten year old Esther Mary Paul was also a witness – to her uncle George’s marriage at the family home at Cross Street, Sandy Bay.

This week in Esther’s story, we break away from the whaling logbook where we first found her as a five year old girl. Now we’ll trace her and her parents through two institutions which housed the most vulnerable people in Hobart in the 1870s – the Brickfields Invalid Depot and the Cascades Establishment. To piece that story together, we have to jump forward and backward in time a little bit, but I promise it is worth the journey!

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Esther’s Story, Part Two: Getting By in Hobart, 1860-1870

“Cross Street, Sandy Bay Road,” “Be a good girl, Esther,” “Esther shall not go out again,” “Bombay is in Asia, ABC,” “Evil communication corrupts,” “Love your grandmother Esther” – each of these were written over and over again in a whaler’s logbook, and signed “Esther Mary Paul” in November or December, 1865. What was little Esther doing writing these lines, in -between and alongside the records of her uncle and aunt’s adventures at sea long before she was born? Was she being educated or punished, or both? Where was she living and why was she there? In this continuing story of little Esther Mary Paul and the whaling logbook in the Crowther Collection, we’ll try to piece together Esther’s young life. It’s a tale of sorrow, struggle, and abandonment, but also of strength, resilience, and love.

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Esther’s Story, Part One: The Whaler’s Log

In November of 1865, a five year old girl named Esther sat in a house in Sandy Bay, writing lines in a small, leather-bound book. Some days, she had geography lessons. Some days, she was in trouble. Some days, she just needed to memorize her new address. Two months came and went, and the little girl wrote line after line. Her notebook had once belonged to her Uncle William, and recorded his whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean and the Timor Sea. In the spaces in-between the stories of whales and gales, little Esther did her school work. So did her Aunt Charlotte, who copied out poems and ballads for the little girl to memorize. Aunt Charlotte knew that logbook well, for it was the record of her own honeymoon at sea, nine years earlier. Now it became a part of a different family story – of tragedy, loss, love, abandonment, and survival.

Esther’s Story is actually the story of three nineteenth-century women: Esther Mary Paul (Lithgow), her mother Cecilia Eliza (Rowland) Paul, and her aunt Charlotte Ann (Rowland) Jacobs. Over Family History Month, we’ll follow these women through three blogs and fifty years of their lives, using digital collections together with library and archival resources. It’s a tale of adventure, improvisation, and resilience, but it’s also something else. It’s a reminder – of how our own historical present can change how we think about the past. Read on to discover more.

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The Conservation Treatment of CRO5/1/33

About 170 years ago, a prominent Hobart doctor made a series of anatomical drawings for local medical students. Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall’s stunning illustrations later ended up in the hands of his fellow medical practitioner, Sir William Crowther, who donated them (with the rest of his considerable collection) to the State Library of Tasmania. But the drawings were in poor condition, neglected for well over a century, and they needed urgent conservation treatment before they could be displayed. What follows is the story of how our conservator, Stephanie McDonald, brought one of the drawings back to life for Lauren Black’s new exhibition, A Complex Beauty at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition will soon be available online as a ‘walk-through’ digital experience (in the meantime, you can check it out on Flickr). Read on to discover more!

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Charles Gould’s Mythical Monsters

Research is not a straight path. It is a trail that twists through mountains and valleys. There are forks in the road and enticing sights that lay off the beaten track. These distractions can be the most treacherous aspects of the journey. Often they can be so alluring that one can forget where one was going in the first place. I stumbled across one of these tangents recently while researching the life and work of Charles Gould (1834-1893), a journey that took me from Tasmania’s wild west coast to mainland China, from giant freshwater crayfish to dragons, and from natural history to the realms of myth.

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Tales of the Unexpected

We’ve just finished celebrating Family History Month, which offered us an opportunity to reflect on some of the unexpected connections to be found in Libraries Tasmania’s archival and heritage collections. In this post, we explore four ‘rare books’ that were not written here, not published here, not about Tasmania in any way, but which unfold extraordinary Tasmanian stories through the history of their ownership and use. From a 17th century Bible once held in royal hands, to a 19th century tanner’s technical manual, here are some tales of the unexpected uncovered in the State Library of Tasmania.

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Reading, Writing & Arithmetic: The Public School Curriculum 150 Years Ago

What would you have learned at a Tasmanian public school in 1869? Mostly, just reading, writing and arithmetic, from a teacher not much older than yourself, in a class of 40-60 students, and in a textbook that your grandfather might have read in Ireland thirty years earlier. The texts might have been boring and out of date, but the reasons why are fascinating. That’s because the public school curriculum in 1869 was deliberately designed to be bland and uninteresting, in order to avoid social conflict. What follows is the story of a journey – from the idea that education needed to reform and contain children, to the radical idea that children in public schools should be inspired to learn, and to become curious and informed citizens. Read on to discover more!

For an audio introduction to this story, check out our interview with ABC Radio!

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The Orphan Schools

This year marks the 150th anniversary of public education in Tasmania.

To help us understand where we’ve come from (and perhaps where we’re going!) the librarians and archivists of the State Library and Archive Service are producing a series of blogs on the history of public education in Tasmania. These aren’t comprehensive – rather, they’re snapshots of places, people, and institutions, as well as a guide to the resources we hold at the State Library. Some of the common themes that feature throughout the blogs are concerns about the curriculum; about health, physical fitness, and nutrition; about sanitation; about industrial training and academic outcomes. But these blogs are also something more – they’re about the history of childhood in Tasmania, and how our view of children – and what education means – has changed since the nineteenth century. We hope you enjoy the journey!

The Orphan Schools established in Hobart in 1828 were an early form of public education, but a harsh one. Their aim was to transform poor children into ‘respectable’ industrious adults. The system was cruel even by the standards of the day – based on discipline, religion, punishment and control. Most of the children were not true orphans, but the children of convict parents, whose imprisonment and work for the convict system prevented the parents from caring for them. Others were the children of the unemployed, destitute, or those that the authorities perceived to be leading immoral lives. Some Aboriginal children were institutionalised as well. All were separated from their parents, housed in cold rooms with no fires and poor sanitation; disease was rampant and mortality was high.

What follows is not easy reading, and it is not suitable material for young children. The story is characterized by cruelty, abuse, and neglect, but also by tremendous resilience, resistance, and compassion. The historical records in the Tasmanian Archives tell this story – and throughout this blog, we will link to them. You, the reader and researcher, can choose to follow the story further in as much in depth as you choose to.

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Two forgotten bushranger plays

For more than 200 years, bushrangers have captured the imagination of storytellers and audiences alike.  Their exploits have inspired songs, books, and, of course, plays. Read on to find out more about two forgotten bushranger plays that span the centuries and the globe, from the floorboards of the Royal Coburg Theatre in London to the airwaves of Tasmanian radio.

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The Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery

Have you ever driven past the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay and wondered what it was for? Have you ever heard rumours of a planned Russian invasion of Tasmania in the 19th century? As Anzac Day approaches, we’d like to share the story of the Southern Volunteer Artillery Regiment with you. Thanks to our new corps of online volunteers, we can now tell this amazing story in a new way, preserve it for future generations, and maybe even link it to your own family history. Intrigued? Want to get involved? Read on!

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