The Girl From Botany Bay
A remarkable story of resilience, heartbreak, and ultimately triumph follows a young woman's international travels after she is deported to Botany Bay in Australia for stealing a woman's bonnet and manages to find her way home again after a long ordeal. On a moonless night in the early 1790s, prisoner Mary Bryant, her husband William, her two small children, and seven other convicts stole a twenty-foot longboat and slipped noiselessly out of Sydney Cove, Australia, eluding their captors. They sailed north, all the way to Indonesia, traveling some thirty-six hundred treacherous miles in ten weeks-- an incredible feat of seamanship. For a time, Mary and her companions were able to convince the local Dutch colonial authorities that they were survivors of a shipwreck, but eventually the truth emerged and they found themselves back in captivity, in irons, on their way to England for execution. In time, Mary's fateful journey would win her tremendous admiration. A woman once reviled as a criminal would become a London celebrity, ultimately finding forgiveness and freedom. In The Girl from Botany Bay, distinguished historian and biographer Carolly Erickson tells Mary Bryant's remarkable story at full length for the first time-- the story of a woman whose impoverished Cornwall childhood led to a life of outlaw daring and thievery, then to harsh imprisonment and exile. Erickson recounts Mary's bold ventures from her point of view, beginning with her conviction and death sentence for highway robbery. Reprieved, she was sent to New South Wales to serve out her time, one of dozens of female convicts chosen as sexual companions for the hundreds of male convicts destined for settlement in the remote continent of Australia. From Mary's perilous sea journey to Botany Bay and Sydney Cove, to the inhuman conditions at the penal colony, to the risky escape to the Indonesian island of Timor and the horrors of the sail back to England-- during which Mary's husband and two children died of disease-- the story is harrowing yet heroic. With the dramatic narrative skill for which she is acclaimed, Erickson brings Mary and her companions to life in compelling detail. All the dangers of seafaring adventure are here: violent storms, near drownings, severe hunger and thirst, and the perils of relentless exposure to sun, wind, and salt spray that left the convicts with their skin scraped raw and their strength leached away. When she finally landed in England and testified before the magistrate's court, Mary was magnificent in her own defense. No one had the heart to condemn her; had she not, through her suffering, paid for her crimes? Impressed by Mary's sturdy self-possession and courage, lawyer and author James Boswell came to her rescue, ensuring that "the Girl from Botany Bay," as the newspapers called her, was freed and able to begin a new life.
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, c2005
234 p. ; 24 cm