Author(s): Dianne Snowden
Between 1841 and 1853, nearly 250 women were transported from Ireland to Van Diemen's Land on the other side of the world for committing arson. During the Great Famine, the number of Irish women transported for arson increased dramatically. In comparison, only small numbers of other convicts were transported for arson.Many of these Irish women committed arson in order to be transported. Why did these women commit arson and not some other crime? What led to the increase in numbers? Why didn't the women simply emigrate if they wanted a better life? White Rag Burning reveals the answers to these questions and in doing so, tells the individual stories of the convict women.The arsonists were poor and actively sought to change their circumstances and improve their conditions. This book looks at the Irish experience of the arsonists, when and where they were tried and their motivation in committing arson. The book follows them to Van Diemen's Land and explores their colonial experience, when they were under sentence and when they were free.The story of the Irish arsonists is a remarkable one, challenging the idea that Irish convict women were passive victims, particularly during the years of the Great Famine. Using original records, this study reveals the reality of convict life together with the legacy left by these women in Tasmania and beyond.