Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
31 October 1839


To the Editor of The Australian.

SIR,—If you can find space, you will probably consent to publish a few remarks on two interesting paragraphs in your Tuesday’s journal. The first of which is headed “Female Factory”—the second, “(The cause of?) Shakspeare’s [sic] death discovered.”

The food that may result from the employment of the women in the factory, …will, I apprehend, be attended with much counteracting wit. The hardship of bringing criminal and pauper labour into competition with that of the…industrious and blameless mass of the community, has been forcibly pointed out and feelingly acknowledged in England. If much encouragement should be given to the Government Sempstress Establishment at Parramatta, many a virtuous…woman will be thrown out of employment in Sydney, and others of the same description crippled in their already impotent means of supporting themselves, or of contributing to the comforts of their family. Oh! Never should the government or the public in any measures they may pursue be unmindful of the strong temptations which beset the path of the chaste and well disposed of the softer and frailer sex in the present circumstances of the colony!

But is not the good which is presumed will result at least to the inmates of the factory themselves by habitual employment at their needle of a very questionable kind? I well remember the remark of a lady, no less distinguished by her extraordinary talents and amiable qualities than by her high rank and personal beauty, in the course of a conversation in which I had the honor to take part. Allusions having been made to Dr. JOHNSON’s avowal, as recorded by Mrs PIAZZI, of the pleasure he derived from witnessing a scene, so characteristic, in his view, of the innocence and purity of their sex, as a number of females seated round the work-table: “Ah! little, little did that good Dr know,” said the intelligent lady, “how the imagination of our sex runs riot, while our hands are occupied in so merely a mechanical employment.” Mrs CHARLOTTE SMITH, in one of her best novels, bears testimony to the same fact. The lady patronesses and committee of the London Female Penitentiary, thought proper to act upon it as an acknowledged truth; and avoided as much as possible all such kind of occupation for the fair penitents in their asylum. While we, sir, can only venture to offer our individual opinion, by reflecting on the pitiful fate which attends so many unhappy females, who are necessitated to earn their livelihood by such-like employments. Alas! are they not considered as the easy prey to the lust or the vanity of the libertine or the seducer? Could no other more punitive and reformatory employment than wholesale needlework be found for the inmates of our factory? But I must not approach nearer to a subject of such insuperable difficulty as that of female penal discipline. I may, however, take this opportunity to add, that if many of the “government women” become more skilled and hardened in depravity by a frequent and long residence in the Parramatta Penitentiary, others owe their determination and their reckless despondency to the wretched service to which they are assigned, through the shameful carelessness of the recommending magistrates’—service in families where the language they hear and the scenes they witness create disgust in those who retain the least sense of female delicacy and virtue and produce an impression that they are suffering an unequal and unjust punishment.

Relative to the other paragraph which strongly arrested my attention, “Shakspeare’s [sic] death discovered,” will you allow me, Sir, to observe, that it is wholly incomprehensible to me how any DIARY kept between the years 1662—1681, can be authority for the particulars of an event which occurred in 1616. On the 23rd of April in that year on the anniversary of his birthday when he completed his 52nd year, the…life of that incomparable genius Shakspeare [sic], [was] terminated. It is known that his death had been anticipated by himself and his friends for some time previous, and in February he made his will. But by what particular malady the fatal event was produced, all the anxious and scrutinising endeavours of his eminent biographers have hitherto been unable to ascertain. A diary commencing 46 years after the event can but affect to supply a deficiency of intelligence which the greatest assiduity has not been able to obtain from any accounts that have been traced to his surviving relatives and contemporaries.

I am, Sir, your


Sydney, Oct. 24, 1839

See Original: “CORRESPONDENCE. To the Editor of The Australian,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 31 October 1839, p.3