A convict woman who was young and healthy might have a much better life under sentence in Van Diemen’s Land than in a prison at home.

After she walked from the wharf to the Cascades Female Factory, she would be assigned to a master as an unpaid domestic servant. If she was lucky, she would find herself in a stable household where the mistress appreciated help with the never-ending cycle of cleaning, cooking, laundry, and childcare. Once she was trusted to go out on errands, she would begin to learn how the colony worked as she walked about the streets.

Assigned service could be a horror, however. A convict who was a servant was still a convict and might be treated with contempt, or worse. Most convict women had no experience at all as domestic servants, nor had they ever entered the domain of the middle class. Learning the ways of a middle-class household was a new, and not necessarily attractive, experience. Daily conflict with an incessantly critical mistress might turn a convict woman surly and insolent. That was enough to charge her with an offence, and return her to a female factory for punishment.