Johanna Esmon (1802?-?)

by Cheryl Griffin


Johanna Esmon, ‘woman of colour’ and convict, was born in Barbados in the British Caribbean. On 20 January 1836, aged 34, she was tried in Demerara (now Guyana) on the north coast of South America. For most of her lifetime, Demerara had been a British colony and it is probable that she moved from one British colony to the other because she was a slave.

A nursemaid by trade, she was tried for stealing clothes. Sentenced to 14 years’ transportation, she was sent firstly to England, then to New South Wales on board the Elizabeth (5), arriving in Sydney on 12 Oct 1836.

The 1837 muster places her with Mr Stack of Sydney, probably Rev William Stack, a Church of England clergyman who arrived in Sydney with his wife Martha on 31 October 1837. The couple moved to Maitland almost immediately, so it is likely that Johanna moved with them.

She did not apply to marry and the last sighting of her was when she was granted a ticket of leave in 1843. It appears that like so many other convicts, she served her sentence without incident then disappeared from view.

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Further reading:

Cheryl Griffin, ‘Whitewashing Australia’s convict experience: from the British Caribbean to New South Wales', in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 131-147.



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