Friday, February 13, 2009
We had the brochure but didn't think too much of “Louisa's Walk” because it was probably just another“Class B” attraction here in Tasmania, with the business having enough money to put together a nice brochure. Fast forward a few days later to when we were looking through the “Visitor's Book” in our apartment and noticed that someone HIGHLY RECOMMENDED it. OK, let's give it a shot.
We met “Louisa” outside the Cascade Gardens parking lot where she was dressed in 1840's attire. She introduced herself as an Irish woman who's husband had passed away and wanted to tell us her story. She had apparently been caught steeling a loaf of bread and was eventually convicted by a magistrate for her crime. The sentence was to serve a seven year term in the prison on Van Diemen's Land, Tasmania's original name given by the British. She “befriended” us at that stage and we were with her on a prison ship in London, on her eight month passage to Tasmania, and eventually to a prison here, known as the “Female Factory,” in the Cascade neighborhood of Hobart . We were her friends. Siena helped teach her sewing techniques. She asked our advice whether she should tell the truth or not to the authorities. She told us her “secrets”. We felt like we were a real part of her journey (and Tasmanian history) as she spent her seven years in prison for the atrocious crime of stealing a loaf of bread to feed her starving family.
Along with Louisa was a male actor who performed the roles of magistrate, ship's captain, factory doctor, and other “bad” characters. Both performed their roles admirably.
We got the adult version. So did Av and Si. The conditions for a female convict at the Female Factory were terrible: virtually no ability to converse with fellow prisoners, little sunlight, poor rations, beatings. Some with lesser crimes were called “assignables” because they would be “assigned” to work for wealthy “free-settlers” who often abused them in many ways. Any children born from this “abuse” were cared for for only a couple of weeks before being separated from their mother. Then the mother went to the worst section of the “factory” where they were beaten...because of their “crime” of getting pregnant. Louisa was one of these mothers. Her baby girl didn't survive. We experienced in a unique way the chilling history of female convicts in Hobart.
The “Factory” was shut down after about thirty years but not before untold numbers of women died or were scarred for life. All ended well for Louisa as she fell in love (at first sight) with a new master.
They were married and she survived. Interestingly enough, the actor and actress (Chris and Judith) performing the strolling theater were married in real life.
No “Class B” attraction here. I give it an A+!!