The Girl from Botany Bay
A crime has been committed: a young woman on foot, journeying alone on the road, has been accosted by three highwaywomen. She’s been robbed, assaulted and left bleeding in the roadway. Her assailants are later captured and brought to justice…
In The Girl from Botany Bay, Carolly Erickson follows the journeys of the convict Mary Broad, whose 1786 death sentence for highway robbery in the West of England was commuted to transportation to New South Wales. We’ve all heard of transportation to Australia, but likely few of us have given much thought to what such an exercise might actually have entailed. Erickson supplies plenty of often gory details.
In this account of Broad’s life, the narrative doesn’t fill in the blanks with fictionalized scenes and dialogue, rather it takes the reader somewhat into the biographer’s process of underpinning the framework of what would be an otherwise obscure bygone life. Most appealing of all is that it uncovers the life a female convict in the late 1780s, an extremely rare glimpse for the time. Clearly Erickson knows her subject and the period, for Broad’s story is well supported by historical records; the gaps are filled in by likely surmise and speculation in a way that’s anything but dry chronicle. A fascinating book.