Sewing for freedom: clothes production at the Cascades Female Factory

This blog is one of a series that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania, an exhibition currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding some elements of the exhibition story walls to provide more context and different perspectives.

Female Factories in colonial Van Diemen’s Land were arrival and hiring depots, as well as somewhere to house those who were unfit for service outside, whether ill, rebellious, or pregnant with nowhere else to go. They were also the instrument of systematic and severe punishment of convict women for often minor offences and were also known as a ‘Female House of Correction’.  Thanks to the Convict Department’s aims of strict discipline, control and reform through hard labour, which it was hoped would earn enough money to help to cover costs, women worked long hours at tasks including standing for hours in the cold at outdoor laundry tubs, picking apart old tar-laden ropes, spinning wool, and sewing and clothes-making.

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