Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary

of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles


Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine


Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?


Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.


In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available,  the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.



Feature Story:

Osborne, Ann

Ann Osborne (1822-?)

by Maureen Mann


Ann Osborne, who also used the given name Catherine and the last name Michan (her proper name), Mechan and Millen, was born in New Brunswick, Canada in about 1822. However, at the time of her 6 May 1850 trial at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) her birth was estimated as 1813. She was tried, along with Patrick Burke, for stealing a small oil painting and frame and was transported for 7 years, as she also had a prior conviction and eight month sentence dating from March 1849. The indent lists several other prior convictions and sentences.

The physical description shows that she was 5 feet 3 inches (160.02 cm) tall, fair complexion, brown hair and eyebrows and grey eyes. Her head and face were both long and her forehead was high. Her nose, which appeared to have a broken bridge, was medium sized, her mouth wide and chin large. She was freckled and pock-pitted, but had no scars or marks. She gave her trade as cook and house servant.

From the indent we learn that she was single, but had one child who did not travel with her. She lived with Pat Conway, was Roman Catholic and could read. Her mother was named Ann and she had a sister, Mary, but there is no indication where they were living.

Ann was transported to Van Diemen’s Land on board the Emma Eugenia which sailed from London under the captaincy of F.T. Davies with John Bower as ship’s surgeon, taking 128 days to make the voyage and arriving in Hobart on 7 March 1851. Ann’s behaviour on board was described as ‘indifferent’.

She had few conduct offences during her sentence. The first, serious enough to be reported in the newspapers, was an assault of Miss Emily Horne, the daughter of her master on 17 June 1851. For this she received nine months’ hard labour in the Cascade Female Factory. During this sentence she was charged with talking in the separate cells and punished with seven days in the cells. After her term of hard labour was over, Ann was assigned to New Norfolk from 27 February 1852. She was assigned to W. Barton and then to S. Griffiths in April 1852. In August 1853 she was told she could apply for her ticket of leave in three months, and this was finally issued, after a second refusal in January 1854, on 25 July 1854. In December 1853 she was charged with drunkenness and fined 5/-.

Ann was recommended for a conditional pardon on 1 May 1855 and this was approved on 20 May 1856. There are no firm sightings for Ann Osborne after her freedom. Her use of multiple names makes it harder than usual to be able to trace her further. 

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