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Title: Penal Colonies
Contributor(s): Scott, John (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2006
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Abstract: Prostitution has been closely associated with the transportation of women convicts to British penal colonies. Convict labor was used to found a number of British colonies including Barbados, Jamaica, Maryland, Virginia, Singapore, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Western Australia. Between 1607 and 1939, Britain transported approximately 400,000 convicts, 162,000 of whom came to Australia and about 50,000 to North America. Significant numbers of women were among those transported to the Australian and North American colonies, although their numbers were relatively small in comparison to male convicts. Transportation was typically reserved for the most recalcitrant of female offenders. Most women transported came from working-class populations, resided in metropolitan centers, and were single at the time of their offense. Although few of these women were actually sentenced for activities associated with prostitution, large numbers had a history of involvement with prostitution. Transportation was considered to offer prostitutes a chance at redemption, with colonial commentators drawing contrasts between the Old World and its vice-ridden sensuality and the colonies, which offered opportunities for redemption through religious devotion and hard work. Many women transported to the Australian colonies were described by officials as being "on the town" at their time of apprehension and were collectively considered to be "damned whores, possessed of neither virtue nor honesty". Recently, historians have argued that these assessments were emblematic of middle-class prejudices toward the open and aggressive sexuality of working-class women. The number of convict women involved in prostitution may have been higher than recorded crimes, typically involving "larceny", suggest. A number of women were charged with theft from men who had paid them (or, in some instances, refused to pay them) for sex. Historians have estimated that one in five convict women were part-time or full-time prostitutes before transportation. Many continued in prostitution after transportation, with prostitution becoming an important element in the social and economic life of the Australian colonies, where, between 1788-1830, men outnumbered women six to one. Officially, prostitution was tolerated to dissuade men from vice. For women, prostitution presented a means of securing physical protection and accommodation at a time when general amenities and employment opportunities were restricted.
Publication Type: Entry In Reference Work
Source of Publication: Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, v.2: O-Z, p. 355-356
Publisher: Greenwood Press
Place of Publication: Westport, United States of America
ISBN: 0313329680
Field of Research (FOR): 160201 Causes and Prevention of Crime
160202 Correctional Theory, Offender Treatment and Rehabilitation
HERDC Category Description: N Entry In Reference Work
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