Elizabeth Gottlieb (1812?-?)

by Ralph Crane


Elizabeth Gottlieb was born in Kensington, London, but brought up in Calcutta. A member of the Church of England who could both read and write, she appears to have worked as a governess before her appearance before the bench in Calcutta on 31 December 1842. At the time of her trial she was already a widow, and had no living relations. She was convicted of stealing jewellery (‘They were 2 rupees’) from a Miss Mathieson and sentenced to transportation for 7 years with six months probation. She left Calcutta aboard the Tenasserim, a 230-ton Calcutta-registered barque trading between India and Australia, on 22 January 1844. The ship departed Madras on 13 February, before arriving in Hobart on 13 April 1844, departing ten days later for Sydney. Transportation orders show that as well as several steerage passengers, the ship conveyed seventeen convicts to Van Diemen’s Land from India: Elizabeth Gottlieb and nine male convicts from Bengal, together with seven male convicts from Fort St. George (Madras).

On arrival in Hobart Town Elizabeth would have been transferred to the Anson, the floating Probation Station moored in Prince of Wales Bay, Risdon to serve her six months probation. When her probation was completed Elizabeth would have become a third-class probation pass-holder, allowing her to be hired for work. Her convict record, which lists no further offences, suggests that she was well behaved throughout the period of her sentence. Her record shows that on 12 November 1844 she became a second-class probation pass-holder, and just seven months later, on 17 June 1845 she had worked her way up, through continued good behaviour, to become a third-class pass-holder. There is, however, no record of her employers or the type of work she did.

Elizabeth received her Free Certificate, or Certificate of Freedom, on 3 January 1857, several years after she had completed her sentence. This was not uncommon; it suggests that in Elizabeth’s case she may have wished to leave the colony, and would thus have needed her Certificate, which allowed convicts to travel freely, wherever they wished. At this point, Elizabeth disappears from the record.


Further reading:

Ralph Crane, 'Out of India: convict women in the web of empire', in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 14-33.

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