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The Wild Story Of The Lady Juliana, The 18th-Century Prison Ship Filled With Women

Updated 24 Sep 2019 53.8k views14 items

A tale as wild as the Seven Seas, the story of the Lady Juliana, a special convict ship full of prisoners sent to Australia, is one of the strangest in the continent's history. The Lady Juliana had a specific mission: carrying a cargo of female prisoners the British government hoped would help reform the struggling convict colony in New South Wales. This motley crew of British women ultimately had a lasting impact on the history of Australia.

Great Britain began colonizing Australia in 1787 with the departure of the so-called First Fleet of ships. Aboard these ships were male and female prisoners, as well as officials whose goal was to establish a penal colony around modern-day Sydney. The Lady Juliana was part of the Second Fleet of ships meant to bring another round of convicts along with food and supplies for the young colony.

The British government specifically commissioned the Lady Juliana to transport a group of no fewer than 200 female convicts to Australia. Pulled from British prisons, these convicts were torn from their families and communities to undertake a lengthy sea voyage to the other side of the world. Though conditions aboard the Lady Juliana were better than they were on most convict ships, it was still a long, hard journey - the ship left England in July 1789 and didn't reach its final destination until June 1790.

Though they were prisoners being transported against their will, many of the women of the Lady Juliana ultimately made the most of their circumstances both during and after the voyage. Between their side hustles in ports of call and their romantic bartering aboard the ship, their journey has gone down in history books as one of the most legendary.

PopularHistoryWeird History18th Century