August 08, 2007

22 January 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The Women's factory in Parramatta

Of all the inhabitants of this place it is the women who most suffer deprivations. They often live with men to whom they are not married, and if the men can cadge work on a Home-bound ship, they willingly leave their women here, encumbered by children and all. When Mr. King established the first Orphan's school in the year '01, it was estimated that nearly 400 children were without parents, either because their father had left the colony and their mothers were not able to care for them, their parents were dead or most distressingly, both their parents had left the colony. The Factory here provides a place for indigent women to work and if necessary sleep, but we are without those basic provisions such as Poor Houses and charitable homes, that exist in London, Portsmouth and elsewhere in England. It has been a special mission of Mrs. King to look after those who cannot look after themselves, and I expect a large crowd will line the shores when she departs in the Buffalo - her friends first, and behind them a mass of women and children to wish her fare-thee-well. Mr. Macarthur has told me of a woman murdered near here - it appears we may have passed close by her remains when returning from Church, and Mr. Oakes, who is the constable here, has already spoken to Mr. Macarthur, to ask if he did see anything. As with the poor family I saw the other day, there is often no-one to miss these poor beggars. We are but one family in the middle of perhaps 5,000 souls, so there is little we can do.
I have looked through the fleeces from last year's clip - at least what is left after selling most of it to the Womens' Factory, where it is wove into cloathe - and there is some of the finer stuff left. Mr. Marsden wants to take several barrels of wool with him, still as fleece, and Mrs. Marsden tells me he has some good fleece but not enough, so we'll add what we have to his barrels. I have no doubt that this place will become the finest sheep land that England has ever dreamed of, when the breed is improved sufficiently. I already have a small number of sheep of the Spanish breed, brought here in '97 by order of Governor King, that have bred and bred again to the Spanish rams, and their fleece is remarkable, though I don't have sufficient yet for Mr. Marsden.

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