Tuesday 10 November 2015

Book Launch: Van Diemen's Women

Van Diemen’s Women, by Joan Kavanagh and Dianne Snowden, tells the story of 138 female convicts and their 35 children who were transported on the eve of the Famine in 1845 to Van Diemen’s Land on the Tasmania, one of the twenty such ships.

While this book looks at the lives of all the women aboard the one ship, it focuses on two women in particular: Eliza Davis, who was transported from Wicklow Gaol for life for infanticide, having had her sentence commuted from death, and Margaret Butler, sentenced to seven years’ transportation for stealing potatoes in Carlow. Their ship sailed from Kingston Harbour (Dun Laoghaire), reaching Hobart Town three months later.

Using original records, this study reveals the reality of transportation, together with the legacy left by these women in Tasmania and beyond, and shows that this Draconian punishment was, for some, at least, a life-saving measure.

As well as being a scholarly work, the book brings out the human tragedies of mid-nineteenth century Ireland and the reality of life for those transported to the other side of the world. It includes a forward by Mary McAleese, an eight-page glossary of relevant terms and institutions, trial statistics, and a 22-page index.

Joan Kavanagh is well-known in Co. Wicklow historical circles for her work in establishing both the Wicklow Genealogy service and the Wicklow Gaol visitor centre. Dianne Snowden is an academic historian and a professional genealogist. She is currently Chairperson of the Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (AAGRA).

Published by The History Press, the illustrated book can be bought at G2 in Main Street, Baltinglass, and at Bridge Street Books, Wicklow Town, as well as through main book shops and online outlets.

ISBN: 9781845888855