Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sex, Work and Politics: Women in Britain, 1780-1945

JUST PUBLISHED

Although it’s only two years since I produced Sex, Work and Politics, writing a second edition has allowed me to extend its chronological limits back to the 1780s and forward to the end of the Second World War in 1945. The original structure of the book remains unaltered though each chapter has been remodelled to take account of this change and of research published since early 2012. In particular, I have made wider use of contemporary newspapers to position women more firmly within their varied milieus. I have also added two new chapters that consider the role played by women after they received the vote in 1918 and 1928 and the place of women in Britain’s imperial project after 1780.

Women in the Nineteenth century front cover

The first chapter considers the relationship between different approaches that have evolved to explain the role of women in history. This is followed by a chapter that looks at the ways in which women were represented in the nineteenth century in terms of the female body, sexuality and the notion of ‘separate spheres‘. Chapter 3 explores the relationship between women and work and how that relationship developed. For working-class women, the critical issue was their increasing economic marginalisation as the result of the masculinisation of work through control over technology, opposition to women’s role in the key sectors of the economy and the identification of certain types of work as specifically ‘female’. For middle-class women caught in the tightening vice of ‘surplus numbers’, the problem was that growing numbers of especially single women needed to find employment to maintain their social position but who often lacked the education necessary to do so. The growing professionalisation of women’s work with the emergence of teaching and nursing and the assault on the male preserve in medicine and the law was the critical development for the middle-classes.

Although women’s suffrage has had a symbolic importance for generations of feminists, the campaign for the vote has obscured the broader agitations for women’s rights during the nineteenth century and was, in terms of its impact before 1914, far less significant. Before the 1880s, the focus was not on winning the vote and the demand for parliamentary suffrage was only one of a range of campaigns. Between 1850 and 1880, a number of significant battles were fought and won. Some of these sought access to the public sphere in education, the professions and central and local government. Others aimed to improve women’s legal and economic status within marriage. Married women’s property rights, divorce, custody of children, domestic violence as well as prostitution were all significant areas in which Victorian middle-class feminists campaigned for changes in the male-oriented status of the law and the differing moral standards to which wives and husbands were expected to conform. This was particular evident in the successful campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts from the mid-1860s and in the growing significance of girls’ schooling and the campaign for higher education, issues are examined in Chapter 4.

The following two chapters look at the ways in which women actively sought access to the public sphere through political activity and demands for suffrage reform. Women’s interest in securing access to political rights was not limited to the campaign for parliamentary suffrage and from the eighteenth century women—proto-feminists--had been challenging the patriarchy. Women, from working- and middle-classes were involved in political protest such as the Chartist movement and in campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. The growing powers given to various levels of local government also attracted their keen interest and in the arena of local party politics women were to play a prominent role as early as the 1870s. For some women, suffrage was not the central issue and, those women who supported the Fabian Society were more concerned with improving the economic status of women as a necessary precursor to gaining the vote. Although there had been calls for women’s suffrage from the early nineteenth century and especially after 1832, it was not until the mid-1860s that campaigns outside Parliament sought to influence and pressurise MPs to introduce suffrage reform. There may have been support within both Conservative and Liberal Parties for women’s suffrage but it was not seen as a priority by party leaders and had to rely on individual MPs being willing to introduce bills, all of which were defeated. After thirty years of intermittent campaigning, the suffrage organisations had not achieved any change in the franchise.

It was not until the first decade of the twentieth century that the suffrage movement achieved widespread national recognition largely through the activities of the militant Suffragettes led by the controlling Pankhursts and the non-militant campaigning of the Suffragists. These wings of the suffrage movement agreed about ends but disagreed about some of the means used to achieve those ends: it was a question of deeds or words. The nature of the suffrage campaign is considered in Chapter 7 while reactions to this from anti-suffragists and political parties form the core of Chapter 8. The impact of the First World War on women generally and the suffrage campaign in particular is discussed in Chapter 9. The critical question is whether women gained the vote in 1918 as a reward for their services during the war or whether it was a political imperative that could no longer be reasonably resisted. Chapter 10 considers the role played by women after they gained the vote in 1918 through to the end of the Second World War. Many women emigrated, either on their own or as part of families, to Britain’s growing colonial possessions after 1780. Chapter 11 examines the nature of their role in the development of these colonies. The book ends with an examination of the notion of ‘borderlands’ as a conceptual framework for discussing women in Britain between 1780 and 1945 and the ways in which their personal, ideological, economic, legal and political status developed and changed.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

‘Hell in Paradise’

The ways in which Norfolk Island was regarded in the nineteenth century have led to stories to be told that do not correspond to its reality. The Norfolk Island legend has several defining characteristics that include assumptions that the prisoners were universally brutalised and had no hope, that commandants and their subordinates were sadists, sexual violence was widespread, and that ‘unnatural crimes’–Victorian shorthand for homosexuality–were rampant.

During Norfolk Island’s second settlement between 1825 and 1855, it was indeed the ‘Hell of the Pacific’, a place dominated by death and despair. [1] In 1824, the Governor of NSW, Sir Thomas Brisbane, [2] received a directive from Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary that Norfolk Island was again to be turned into a penitentiary. [3] Its remoteness, seen previously as a disadvantage, was now viewed as an asset for the detention of those ‘twice-convicted’, men who had committed further crimes since arriving in NSW and VDL. Brisbane decided that it was the best place to send the worst felons ‘forever to be excluded from all hope of return’. Norfolk Island would be ‘the nec plus ultra of Convict degradation’.[4]

His successor, Governor Ralph Darling, [5] was even more severe than Brisbane, and made it clear in 1827 that he wished that ‘every man should be worked in irons that the example may deter others from the commission of crime’ [6] and that ‘My object was to hold out [Norfolk Island] as a place of the extremest punishment short of death’. [7] Governor George Arthur, in VDL, also believed that ‘when prisoners are sent to Norfolk Island, they should on no account be permitted to return. Transportation thither should be considered as the ultimate limit and a punishment short only of death’. Sir Richard Bourke instructed Major Joseph Anderson, the notorious Commandant of Norfolk Island from 1834 to 1839, to keep prisoners working manually in irons even though it was expensive and inefficient, as the penal settlement was considered a place of punishment. He deliberately warned him against implementing any more efficient methods of production, such as mills that were not ‘urged by the labour of convicts’. [8] Despite the reliance on manual labour, prisoners on Norfolk Island were cheaper to keep than chained convicts in NSW and the existence of the place at all was considered by many in Britain to be part of the ‘moral cost’ of the transportation system. Convicts so feared Norfolk Island that Elliott one of the prisoners declared that he would rather hang than be sent there. [9] The Norfolk Island penal settlement was not primarily for the reformation of convicts.

Conditions for convicts, many of them Irish Catholics, were unrelentingly brutal. A large percentage of the convicts were sentenced to remain in heavy chains for the terms of their natural lives and most convicts were chained during the day. Convicts were used primarily as farm labourers or in building much of what today is Kingston. Stone was quarried for building from Nepean Island, a rock close to shore and coral rubble was rendered with lime and sand. Norfolk Pine was used for joinery and roofs and floors were made from thin stone slabs. Flogging was common, sometimes up to 500 strokes. Dumb-cells were constructed to exclude light and sound in which some lost their sanity. Solitary confinement, increased workloads and decreased rations were also common forms of punishment. Michael Burns, for instance, suffered a total of 2,210 lashes and almost two years in confinement, much of it in solitary with at least six months of those two years on a diet of bread and water. His crimes were insolence, suspected robbery and neglect of work, striking a fellow prisoner, bushranging, singing a song, calling for a doctor, attempted escape and inability to work caused by his punishments.[10] Thomas Bunbury, briefly commandant in 1839 after the brief mutiny by the 80th Regiment on the island, [11] wrote that he could not understand why ‘a villain who has been guilty of every enormity, should feel shame at having his back scratched with the cat-o-nine-tails when he felt none for his atrocious crimes’ and that ‘if a man is too sick to work he is too sick to eat’. [12]

Such was the harshness of both hard labour and punishment that for some death was preferable to continued torment though contemporary evidence for this is limited. When Father William Ullathorne, Vicar general of Sydney, visited Norfolk Island to comfort those due for execution after the 1834 rebellion, he found it ‘the most heartrending scene that I ever witnessed’. Having the duty of informing the prisoners as to who was reprieved and who was to die, he was shocked to record as ‘a literal fact that each man who heard his reprieve wept bitterly, and that each man who heard of his condemnation to death went down on his knees with dry eyes, and thanked God.’ [13] John Frederick Mortlock, who wrote about his own treatment at various settlements around Australia and arrived on Norfolk Island in 1845, explained:

…instead of awakening moral responsibility, it [injudicious severity] strengthens the Devil, and makes men more difficult to manage–more likely to be dangerous when restored to society. [14]

There is evidence that some men committed capital offences with ‘suicidal intent’ so that they would be executed. For instance, William Westwood, one of the leaders of the 1846 riot suggested in a conversation with Stipendiary Magistrate Samuel Barrow that he ‘became careless and reckless of life’ and that ‘the death I am going to suffer could be preferable to Norfolk Island.’ [15] However, an attempted escape from gaol suggests that his claims should be treated with some scepticism. These incidents were embellished into stories of ‘suicide lotteries’ by some contemporary writers. John West, for instance, argued that men at Macquarie Harbour ‘gambled for life’. [16] The Norfolk Island suicide lottery myth relies on an extremely limited number of sources and despite the continued currency of these tales, the suicide rate on the Island was extremely low with only three recorded attempted suicides, a consequence Causer argues ‘that convicts were averse to suicide for explicitly religious reasons’. [17]


[1] See, Nobbs, R., (ed.), Norfolk Island and its Second Settlement, 1825-1855, (Library of Australian History), 1991.

[2] Heydon, J. D., ‘Brisbane, Sir Thomas Makdougall (1773-1860)’, ADB, Vol. 1, pp. 151-155, and Brisbane, Sir Thomas Makdougall, Reminiscences of General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, (T. Constable), 1860, pp. 43-60.

[3] Bathurst to Brisbane, 22 July 1824, HRA, Series I: Vol. 11, pp. 321-322, acknowledged by Brisbane, 21 May 1825.

[4] Brisbane to Under-Secretary Horton, 24 March 1825, HRA, Series I: Vol. 11, p. 553.

[5] ‘Sir Ralph Darling (1772-1858), ADB, Vol. 1, 1966, pp. 282-286, and ibid, Fletcher, Brian, Ralph Darling: A Governor Maligned, provide biographical material.

[6] Darling to Under-Secretary Hay, 10 February 1827, HRA, Series I: Vol. 13, p. 106.

[7] Cit, ibid, Hazzard, Margaret, Punishment Short of Death, p. 111.

[8] See, Bourke to Stanley, 15 January 1834, HRA, Series I: Vol. 17, pp. 319-320, 327-328.

[9] R. v. Jones, Giles and Elliot: report of execution, Australian, 13 September 1833. For other declarations of preference for death over transportation to Norfolk Island, see R v Gough, Watson and Muir, 1827, Therry, R., Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Residence in New South Wales and Victoria: with a supplementary chapter on transportation and the ticket-of-leave system, (Sampson Low, Son, and Co.), 1863, pp. 19, 24, and R v Pegg, 1831, who preferred death to 14 years’ transportation.

[10] Cook, Thomas, The exile’s lamentations or biographical sketch of Thomas Cook who was convicted at the Assizes held at Shrewsbury in March 1831 for ‘writing threatening letters’ and sentenced 14 yrs transportation and re-convicted for forgery and sentenced to Norfolk Island for life, 1840, reprinted, (Library of Australian History), 1978, p. 48.

[11] Sargent, Clem, ‘The British Garrison in Australia 1788-1841: the mutiny of the 80th Regiment on Norfolk Island’, Sabretache, Vol. 59, (3), (2005), pp. 5-22, is essential on this neglected rebellion.

[12] Bunbury, Thomas, Reminiscences of a Veteran: being personal and military adventures in Portugal, Spain, France, Malta, New South Wales, Norfolk Island, New Zealand, Andaman Islands, and India, 3 Vols. (C.J. Skeet), 1861, reprinted (N & M Press), 2009, cit. ibid, Hazzard, Margaret, Punishment Short of Death, p. 152

[13] Cit, Birt, Henry Norbert, Benedictine Pioneers in Australia, 2 Vols. (Herbert & Daniel), Vol. 1, 1911, p. 178, and Butler, Edward Cuthbert, The life & times of Bishop Ullathorne, 1806-1889, 2 Vols. (Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, Ltd.), 1926, Vol. 1, p. 94.

[14] Mortlock, J. F., Experiences of a convict transported for twenty one years: an autobiographical memoir, (Richard Barrett, Printers), 1864, p. 67.

[15] Barrow to Comptroller-General of Convicts 2 November 1846, cit, Causer, Tim, ‘Norfolk Island’s ‘suicide lotteries’: myth and reality’, unpublished paper, p. 5. http://www.academia.edu/1109987/Norfolk_Islands_suicide_lotteries_myth_and_reality

[16] Ibid, West, John, The History of Tasmania, p. 397.

[17] Causer, Tim, ‘Norfolk Island’s ‘suicide lotteries’: myth and reality’, unpublished paper, pp. 5-6.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Rebellion on Norfolk Island: Foveaux and rebellion in 1800

There had been attempted convict rebellions in 1789 and 1794 and this situation intensified with the arrival on the island in early November 1800 of a group of United Irish prisoners, several of whom had been implicated in conspiracies in Sydney in September and October. Although Foveaux was aware of the need for surveillance over the convicts, he believed that lenient treatment and the isolation of the island would discourage any attempts at escape. The United Irishmen were allowed free association with each other and with earlier arrivals. In particular, Farrell Cuffe, a school teacher and United Irishman from County Offaly struck up or possibly renewed a friendship with Peter McLean, a forty-year old political prisoner from County Cavan who had arrived with Joseph Foveaux, who King had appointed commandant of the Island, in July. The result was preparations for an armed escape. Convicts began making pikes and Cockerton Ross, an expiree, promised to give them 15 muskets. McLean was also in correspondence with Thomas Pyshe Palmer in Sydney who promised that a ship would come to take them away once the conspirators had seized the settlement. [1]

The tiny settlement on the south side of Norfolk Island – a view drawn by Edward Dayes based on a painting by William Chapman storekeeper and deputy commissary

The rebellion was originally planned for Christmas Day when McLean and sympathetic soldiers would open the barracks and the rebels would seize weapons and proceed to the guardhouse, magazine and gaol. The fraternisation of several of the soldiers with the Irish convicts had already caused some concern in the garrison but no action had been taken. However, preparations were so advanced that the plan was brought forward to the night of Saturday 13 December but was deferred for twenty-four hours following a meeting at which the rebels disagreed about whether the officers, their wives and children should be killed or not. In the interim, the conspiracy was betrayed to Foveaux by Henry Grady, a reluctant rebel who had been convicted for rape not sedition and Thomas Hodges. Foveaux acted decisively and with his civil and military officers agreed that capital punishment should be used, perhaps angered that his leniency had been abused or by the threat of violence to women and children.[2] McLean and John Houlahan (Wolloghan), aged 24 and from Munster, named as the chief organiser of the pike-making were arrested on the Sunday morning and hanged in the afternoon before the assembled convicts and soldiers. The four soldiers involved were ceremoniously drummed out of the NSW Corps and received 500 lashes each. Grady got a free pardon.  Although there were some questions about the legality of summary executions, King agreed with Foveaux’s actions and submitted a favourable report to London. [3]

Until severe asthma forced him to return first to Sydney in September 1803 and to London a year later, Foveaux concentrated his efforts on improving conditions on Norfolk Island, paying particular attention to public works, with results that earned high praise from both King and Lord Hobart, the Secretary of State. More questionable, however, was the dubious morality of allowing the sale of female convicts to settlers. Despite these advances, the future of Norfolk Island as a penal settlement, initially questioned by King as early as 1794, had already been decided before Foveaux left. It was too remote, too costly to maintain and the lack of a harbour made it difficult for shipping and, with the establishment of a settlement in VDL in 1803, there was now an alternative location for a penal settlement for difficult convicts. By 1803, Lord Hobart called for the removal of part of the Norfolk Island military establishment, settlers and convicts to VDL, due to its great expense and the difficulties of communication with Sydney. [4] Foveaux made his view clear to the Colonial Office that Norfolk Island should be abandoned in favour of VDL on his leave in England. [5]

John Houston, a naval lieutenant, was sent from Sydney to take over as Lieutenant-Governor and arrived at Norfolk Island on 13 February 1804 with Captain John Piper of the NSW Corps. Foveaux also returned to the island in February and continued with his plans for improvement but in July 1804 received a despatch from King ordering evacuation of the island. [6] Houston returned to Sydney and Piper became Lieutenant-Governor, a position he held until January 1810. [7] The duty of carrying out the frequently altered instructions fell to Piper and he appears to have exhibited both tact and organising ability. The evacuation was achieved more slowly than anticipated because of the reluctance of settlers to uproot themselves from the land they had struggled to tame and compensation claims for loss of stock. It was also delayed by King who insisted on the importance of the island for the whaling industry and probably his own personal attachment to it. [8] The first group of 159 left in February 1805 and comprised mainly convicts and their families and military personnel, only four settlers departing. [9] Between November 1807 and September 1808, five groups of 554 people left. Only about 200 remained, forming a small settlement until the remnants were removed in 1813. A small party led by a trusted emancipated convict William Hutchinson, which finally left on 15 February 1814, remained to slaughter stock and destroy all buildings so that there would be no incentive for anyone, especially from another European power, to visit or attempt to colonise it. [10]


[1] Earnshaw, John, ‘Palmer, Thomas Fyshe (1747-1802)’, ADB, Vol. 2, pp. 312-313.

[2] HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 266-267, details the meeting

[3] King to Portland, 10 March 1801, HRNSW, Vol. 4, p. 319, 325,

[4] Hobart to King, 24 June 1803, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 157-159; this was not received by King until May 1804.

[5] See, Lieutenant-Governor Foveaux’s Observations concerning the Removal of the Settlement at Norfolk Island, 25 March 1805, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 581-585.

[6] King to Foveaux, 20 July 1804, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 403-406, detailed how the partial evacuation was to be managed.

[7] Barnard, Marjorie, ‘Piper, John (1773-1851)’, ADB, Vol. 2, pp. 334-335.

[8] King to Sir Joseph Banks, 14 August 1804, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 447-448, expressed King’s belief in the importance of Norfolk Island and King to Camden, 30 April 1805, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 600-601, concerning the whalers.

[9] See King to Camden, 30 April 1805, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 600-601, on the first tranche of the removal.

[10] Le Roy, Paul Edwin, ‘Hutchinson, William (1772-1846)’, ADB, Vol. 1, pp. 574-575.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Settling Norfolk Island

Convict resistance was widespread in NSW and then VDL in the decades following the unsuccessful rebellion in 1804. The major reason why there were no further large-scale rebellions on mainland Australia was that recalcitrant convicts were increasingly isolated in punishment settlements. The discovery of coal in NSW resulted in the development of Newcastle and its example was later following in VDL with the establishment of the prison settlement at Port Arthur. However, the most feared and infamous settlement was on Norfolk Island that lay about a thousand miles from both Australia and NZ and covers an area of just over thirteen square miles and was represented as all that was bad about the convict system. Bathurst’s 1824 proclamation stated that the ‘worst description’ of convicts from NSW and VDL would be sent to the Island. [1] Its isolation and the draconian nature of its administration, especially after 1825, made it one of the most brutal penal settlements of the nineteenth century and it was the location for the other major convict rebellion in 1834. [2] In 1840, Charles Dickens volunteered to write a cheap government-sanctioned narrative of Norfolk Island to ensure that the lower orders held it in sufficient dread. [3] Such a work was unnecessary since the Island was already a byword for criminality and perversity.

Sighted and named by Captain Cook in 1774, Norfolk Island was included as an auxiliary settlement in the British government’s plan for colonisation of NSW in 1786 and initially settled in March 1788. The decision to settle Norfolk Island, as well as the main settlement at Botany Bay, was based on its natural resources: tall, straight Norfolk Island pines and the NZ flax plant. [4] Cook had taken samples back to Britain and reported on their potential uses for the Royal Navy. Britain was heavily dependent on flax for sails and hemp for ropes largely imported from Russia through the Baltic Sea ports and also on timbers for mainmasts from New England. Relying on potentially erratic imports of these supplies posed a threat to Britain’s naval supremacy. Norfolk Island offered an alternative source and some historians, notably Geoffrey Blainey, have argued that this was a major reason for the founding of the convict settlement of NSW in 1788. The Universal Daily Register revealed the plan for a dual colonisation of Norfolk Island and Botany Bay:

The ships for Botany Bay are not to leave all the convicts there; some of them are to be taken to Norfolk Island, which is about eight hundred miles East of Botany Bay, and about four hundred miles short of New Zealand. [5]

The advantage of a non-Russian source of flax and hemp for naval supplies was referred to in Lloyd’s Evening Post:

It is undoubtedly the interest of Great-Britain to remain neutral in the present contest between the Russians and the Turks...Should England cease to render her services to the Empress of Russia, in a war against the Turks, there can be little of nothing to fear from her ill-will. England will speedily be enabled to draw from her colony of New South Wales, the staple of Russia, hemp and flax. [6]

Governor Arthur Phillip’s final instructions, given him in April 1787 less than three weeks before sailing, included the requirement to colonise Norfolk Island to prevent it falling into the hands of France, whose naval leaders were also showing interest in the Pacific. [7]

...as soon as Circumstances may admit of it...to prevent its being occupied by the Subjects of any other European Power. [8]

Phillip had chosen King as second lieutenant on HMS Sirius for the expedition to establish a convict settlement in NSW. King had served with Phillip before the First Fleet and was regarded as his protégé. Phillip certainly had a high opinion of King and consciously promoted his interests throughout the late 1780s and 1790s. Despite his lowly rank, soon after the settlement was established at Sydney Cove, King was selected to lead a small party of convicts and guards to set up a settlement at Norfolk Island. On 14 February 1788, he sailed for his new post with a party of twenty-three, including fifteen convicts. [9] On 6 March 1788, King and his party landed with difficulty, owing to the lack of a suitable harbour and set about building huts, clearing the land, planting crops and resisting the ravages of grubs, salt air and hurricanes. [10] More convicts were sent and these proved occasionally troublesome. Early in 1789, King prevented a mutiny when some of the convicts planned to take him and the other officers prisoner and escape on the next boat to arrive. [11] Despite the lack of a safe harbour, of lime and timbered land, there was plenty of fish, the stock flourished and the soil was good. It could maintain ‘at least one hundred families’, King told Phillip. Impressed by his work, the governor several times recommended his subordinate for naval promotion, but this would have raised difficulties because of King’s lack of seniority. To resolve the problem the Secretary of State announced in December 1789 that King would be appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island at a salary of £250. [12]

Sirius wreck on the reef at Norfolk Island 1790 NLA

Wreck of HMS Sirius on the reef at Norfolk Island 1790

Following the wreck of Sirius at Norfolk Island in March 1790, King left and returned to England to report on the difficulties facing the settlements in NSW. During his twenty months absence, the island was under the command of Lieutenant-Governor Robert Ross [13] but Ross was not an easy commandant and convicts, settlers, soldiers and officials had become discontented under his rule. [14] King found ‘discord and strife on every person’s countenance’ and was ‘pestered with complaints, bitter revilings, back-biting’. [15] Tools and skilled labour were both in short supply. Thefts were common and there was still no criminal court on the island, despite the representations he had made in London on the need for better judicial arrangements.[16] However, King’s guidance helped to improve conditions. The regulations he issued in 1792 encouraged the settlers, who were drawn from ex-marines and ex-convicts, and he was willing to listen to their advice on fixing wages and prices and other things. Unfortunately King had no success with growing the flax that so interested the British government. [17] The pine timber was found to be not durable enough for masts and this industry was also abandoned. By 1794, the island was self-sufficient in grain and had a surplus of swine that it could send to Sydney. Maize, wheat, potatoes, cabbage, timber, flax and fruit of all kinds grew well, the population grew to more than 1,100 and about a quarter of the island was cleared. Suffering from gout, King returned to England in October 1796, and after regaining his health, he resumed his naval career.

Between 1796 and 1800, Norfolk Island was ruled by Captain John Townson and then briefly by Captain Thomas Rowley. Townson spent six years on Norfolk Island between late 1791 and 1799 and received a twenty acre lease. [18] His administration was generally capable and he seems to have had a steadying influence on both convicts and settlers. When Townson left prematurely in November 1799, Rowley, as the senior officer, took charge of the settlement. He ordered liquor stills to be demolished to reduce the drunkenness on the island, and this move brought threats of prosecution from their owners. [19] King returned to NSW in early 1800 as Governor. [20] He appointed Major Joseph Foveaux as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island in June 1800. [21]

Foveaux found the settlement quite run down, little maintenance having been carried out in the previous four years. Its population consisted of 519 men, 165 women and 269 children and had an unusually high ratio of free settlers to convicts: not including children, there were 308 free settlers and 272 convicts. Foveaux was unimpressed with his civil administration regarding the NSW Corps officers generally unfavourably. [22] He set about building up the community, particularly through public works and attempted to improve education. By 1800, Norfolk Island was a regular stop from the increasing number of whaling ships from the United States and Britain. Whale oil was much in demand, not least as a means of street lighting and by 1802 almost a hundred ships were involved in the Southern Ocean fishery. Whalers made lengthy voyages, often lasting two or three years and they found that wood and food were cheaper on Norfolk Island than in Sydney. This gave a welcome boost to the island’s economy. Whaling captains were often of assistance to Foveaux, selling tools and other goods needed on the island and carrying despatches to and from England. However, on occasions Foveaux complained that whalers overcharged for taking goods and passengers to Sydney and demanded urgent repairs that interfered with his plans for public works and farming. [23]


[1] Bathurst to Brisbane, 22 July 1824, HRA, Series I, Vol. 11, p. 322.

[2] See, Hoare, Merval, Norfolk Island; An outline of its history 1774-1968, fifth edition, (University of Queensland Press), 1999, Hazzard, Margaret, Punishment Short of Death: A History of the Penal Settlement at Norfolk Island, (Hyland House), 1984, Treadgold, M. L., Bounteous Bestowal: The economic history of Norfolk Island, (Australian National University), 1988, and O’Collins, Maev, An Uneasy Relationship: Norfolk Island and the Commonwealth of Australia, (ANU Press), 2002, pp. 1-19. Benton, Laura, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900, (Cambridge University Press), 2010, pp. 197-208, examines the uses made of extra-legal disciplinary systems.

[3] Dickens to Normanby, 3 July 1840, in Storey, Graham, Tillotson, Kathleen, and Easson, Angus, (eds.), The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume 7, 1853-1855, (Oxford University Press), 1993, p. 818. The letter was referred to in the context of Hard Times, (Bradbury & Evans), 1854, p. 178, where Norfolk Island is briefly mentioned.

[4] See, Nobbs, R., (ed.), Norfolk Island and its First Settlement, 1788-1814, (Library of Australian History), 1988, and Donohoe, J. H., Norfolk Island, 1788-1813: the people and their families, (J. H. Donohoe), 1986.

[5] Universal Daily Register, 23 December 1786.

[6] Lloyd’s Evening Post, 5 October 1787.

[7] Dyer, Colin, The French Explorers and Sydney, (University of Queensland Press), 2009, draws on French observations of the British convict settlement in NSW.

[8] HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 84-91, HRA, Series I: Vol. 1, pp. 2-9.

[9] Crittenden, Victor, King of Norfolk Island: The Story of Philip Gidley King as Commandant and Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island, (Mulini Press), 1993. For King’s appointment and instructions see, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 136-138. Fidlon, P. G., and Ryan, R. J., (eds.), The Journal of Philip Gidley King: Lieutenant, R.N., 1787-1790, (Australian Documents Library), 1980, gives King’s view of his governance of Norfolk Island until 1790.

[10] Phillip to Sydney, 28 September 1788, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 185-187, provides analysis of the resources of Norfolk Island. See also, Phillip, Arthur, The voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay: with an account of the establishment of the colonies of Port Jackson & Norfolk Island, 3rd ed., (Printed for J. Stockdale), 1790. Ross to Phillip, 11 February 1791, gives a detailed discussion of problems encountered, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 434-450.

[11] Phillip to Sydney, 12 February 1790, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 293-294. Since Phillip had corresponded with Sydney during 1789, it is difficult to explain why he left it a year before informing him of the mutiny.

[12] For King’s commission dated 28 January 1790, see, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 287-288.

[13] For Ross’ instruction dated 2 March 1790, see, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 314-316. See also his observations on the island in December 1790, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 416-420, and the contrast with King’s observations in January 1791 when he was in London, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 428-431. See also, Macmillan, David S., ‘Ross, Robert (1740?-1794)’, ADB, Vol. 2, pp. 397-398.

[14] Ross had introduced martial law almost as soon as he arrived at Norfolk Island because of the loss of the Sirius; see, Ross to Phillip, 22 March 1790, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 319-320, and also the enclosures pp. 321-323, in which Ross laid down the standards that would now operate on the island. Phillip informed Grenville in a letter dated 14 July 1790, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 357-358. Food shortages on Norfolk Island led Ross to introduce draconian measures to conserve supplies in proclamations on 7 August 1790, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 390-393.

[15] King to Under Secretary Evan Nepean, 23 November 1791, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), p. 562; see also King to Phillip, 29 December 1791, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), pp. 572-580.

[16] See Phillip to Dundas, 4 October 1791, HRNSW, Vol. 1, (2), p. 655, on the inconveniences of the lack of a criminal court on Norfolk Island. Legislation was finally passed in London establishing a criminal court on Norfolk Island on 9 May 1794, HRNSW, Vol. 2, pp. 235-236.

[17] King to Dundas, 19 November 1793, HRNSW, Vol. 2, pp. 86-98, details the voyage to NZ to obtain Maori help with flax production. This failed and the natives returned to NZ, HRNSW, Vol. 2, p. 174.

[18] Austin, M., ‘Townson, John (1759?-1835)’, ADB, Vol. 2, pp. 536-537.

[19] Fletcher, B. H., ‘Rowley, Thomas (1748?-1806)’, ADB, Vol. 2, p. 403.

[20] King arrived in NSW with the letter (Portland to Hunter, 5 November 1799, HRNSW, Vol. 3, pp. 733-738, HRA, Series I: Vol. 2, pp. 387-392, recalling Governor John Hunter was received on 16 April 1800, but he did not hand over the government to King until 28 September.

[21] See, King to Portland, 29 April 1800, HRNSW, vol. 4, p. 79, makes clear King’s decision and King to Foveaux, 26 June 1800, HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 96-108, details Foveaux’s appointment and instructions. See also, Fletcher, B. H., ‘Foveaux, Joseph (1767-1846)’, ADB, Vol. 1, pp. 407-409, and Whitaker, Ann-Maree, Joseph Foveaux: power and patronage in early New South Wales, (University of New South Wales Press), 2000, pp. 55-80, for his years on Norfolk Island.

[22] State of the Settlement in Norfolk Island, 6 November 1800, HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 252-253.

[23] On the development of the South Sea whale-fishery, see, minutes of the Board of Trade, 4 December 1801, HRNSW, Vol. 4, p. 630. See also, Little, B., ‘Sealing and Whaling in Australia Before 1850’, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 9, (1969), pp. 109-127.

Friday, 1 August 2014

‘Khaki fever’

The outbreak of war saw an epidemic of ‘khaki fever’ across Britain. A sexual excitement among young women at the sight of soldiers in towns, cities and near army camps, something largely missing from popular mythologies that dwell upon the sacrifices made by innocent youth. Soldiers in their uniforms were exciting and in the nineteenth century women were so attracted to soldiers in their regimental coats that they were said to suffer from ‘scarlet fever’. Although it proved to be short-lived as the war not over by Christmas dragged into its second and third years and women increasingly played a direct role in the war effort, the measures introduced to control this sexual explosion persisted. The significance of ‘khaki fever’ lay not with the blatant and often aggressive harassment of soldiers by young working-class girls but that it also affected some young upper-working and middle-class women generally regarded as ‘respectable’. This threatened the subversion of gender as well as the moral order suggesting a generational shift in female behaviour—challenging the belief that sexual chastity was central to respectability—and in how female sexuality was conceived. [1]
The mobilisation of Kitchener’s volunteer army saw tent cities spring up in the countryside and the towns and cities swelled with soldiers. In the upsurge of patriotic feeling, new recruits were warmly welcomed with men ‘treating’ soldiers to drinks in the pubs, women inviting officers for tea and conversation and young people of both sexes hanging vicariously around the troops. [2] Although the behaviour of boys was rarely commented on, increasingly the presence of young girls, some as young as thirteen, from across the social classes around army camps became a growing cause for concern for the police and military authorities, members of the clergy and journalists and other social commentators. Some contemporaries reported that they pestered soldiers, flirted with them and, generally expressed in judgemental but general terms, entered into sexual liaisons with them while a few argued for the innocence of the girls’ intentions.
Was it not a thing to be ashamed of that girls were making boys what they should not be. It was their mothers’ fault that the girls were what they were… [3]
In this climate of feverish, patriotic and sexualised exuberance, the authorities believed their activities required special attention and control—being socially disorderly was seen as synonymous with sexual deviance leading to the potential for dangerous infection-literally and figuratively--of the body politic. Khaki fever quickly subsided once women shared in the war effort—it was a phenomenon of the first months of the war—but it created a discourse between government, feminists, the police, local and military authorities over how sexuality should be controlled in the interests of the nation at war.
In garrison towns and ports military and naval authorities exerted a degree of control over civilian behaviour—the Contagious Diseases Acts had applied to these communities—but the outbreak of war saw an massive influx in the number of men in uniform based in camps close of urban communities that as well as providing financial opportunities for local businesses posed a major threat to public order. For instance, 100,000 men were stationed at Belton Park in Lincolnshire near Grantham from September 1914 and for the remainder of the war twelve different regiments were quartered at Belton at any one time.  Major-General Frederick Hammersley[4] initially placed the borough out of bounds to all soldiers except those with special passes.  This may have been a short-term solution but men needed to get out of camp. The result was rising levels of drunkenness in Grantham. The Borough and Military Police had difficulty in controlling this but once pubs closed after 7.00 pm drunkenness decreased.[5] However, changes in sexual behaviour were occurring and prostitution was reported to be ‘rife’ with train loads of ladies of ‘easy virtue’ coming into Grantham from different cities, especially Nottingham. By mid-September 1914, mothers were already being advised ‘not to let their daughters go to Belton Park at late hours and be a temptation.’ [6] Hammersley had soldiers and police enter houses thought to be used for sexual encounters while the Defence of the Realm Act was used to ban women from a prescribed distance of military camps and to impose curfews, banning women from pubs after 6.00 pm.  Hammersley was entitled to place restrictions on civilians but a notice prohibiting women from going into Grantham, caused a storm of protest.  He saw it as a preventative measure that did not refer to ‘respectable’ girls but that it had a beneficial effect.  The formation of a second camp at Harrrowby in 1915 to train machine gunners explains why Grantham in December 1914[7] became the first town north of London to appoint policewomen to patrol its streets ‘to preserve women and girls—young, untrained, undisciplined girls—to keep them from temptation and evil.’[8] On 27 November 1914, Grantham magistrates swore in Mrs Edith Smith, making her the first policewoman in Britain with full powers of arrest. 
Concern with the behaviour of young women and girls provided an opportunity for feminists to press their case for the need for women police. Lady Nott Bowler made clear the argument for women police, something she has pressed unsuccessfully on the Home Secretary three years earlier:
Few members of the general public, relatively, realised what a terrible blot it was upon our civilisation that they had hitherto only male officers to deal with all the difficult questions that arose…One thing the war was bringing about was the feeling of fellowship one with another, Did they realise the responsibility of their sisterhood to the girls and women more helpless than themselves? Had they a right to so shelter their modesty as to be unwilling to know what their sisters suffer? [9]
Two groups of women organised patrols to deal with these wayward women. The more radical was the Women Police Service (WPS) formed in September 1914 by a group of a group of women who saw the war as an opportunity for women to become permanent career members of the Metropolitan Police Force. Its leading members, Margaret Damer Dawson and Mary Allen, both had links with the WSPU. Despite their success in Grantham, the work of women police was restricted to preventative activities. The WPS adopted an interventionist style of rescue work, warning errant girls and soldiers’ wives of the danger of immoral behaviour.[10] The other group of women police were the voluntary patrols co-ordinated by the middle-class National Union of Women Workers’ (NUWW) Women Patrol Committee. The NUWW was established as an organisation of social purity feminists in 1876 and its membership was not militant in its approach. Indeed, the NUWW was reluctant to employ women who had been arrested during suffragette demonstrations and protests. Unlike the WPS, the Women Volunteers saw themselves as aides to the established police calling a constable is an actual offences had been committed. By October 1915, there were 2,301 women patrols at work in 108 places in Britain and Ireland. Both groups of women spent a great deal of time policing the behaviour of working-class women, patrolling parks and public spaces, separating courting couples and moving on ‘dangerous’ women.[11] The WPS even signed a contract with the Ministry of Munitions to police the growing number of women workers in munitions factories carrying out inspections of women to ensure that they did not take anything into the factories which might cause explosions.. Crucially, these women did not possess power of arrest, though they would present evidence in court on the behalf of male officers. In September 1918, the Metropolitan Police Force officially recognised the Women Volunteers—but not its more radical rival that was disadvantaged by its assertive feminism—and women were gradually admitted into the mainstream of police work. [12]
Postcard
A maison tolerée
Government became increasingly paranoid about the spread of venereal disease and its potential effect on the nation’s ability to wage war. During the war, venereal disease caused 416,891 hospital admissions among British and Dominion troops and troops were five times more likely to end up in hospital suffering from sexually-transmitted diseases than ‘trench foot’, an ailment that more than any other symbolised in people’s minds the squalor of the trenches. [13] Although women, whether prostitutes or not, bore the brunt of public opprobrium, British military law made the concealing of venereal disease punishable as a crime. Soldiers who were hospitalised were subject, until October 1917, to an inequitable system of ‘hospital stoppages’, money taken from a soldier’s pay to cover the cost of treatment when it was not connected to his military service. These sanctions appear to have had very little effect as a deterrent and encouraged men to take quack remedies or to conceal the disease. The issuing of condoms to soldiers, the most effective if basic counter-measure, was not adopted by military authorities. They feared not without justification that it would be a public-relations disaster leading to calls for self-restrain and chastity, the provision of ‘wholesome’ recreational activities and ‘early treatment’ centres for disinfection following intercourse as a military ‘policy’ that had little impact on the burgeoning increase in disease.
The problem with controlling venereal disease among British and Dominion troops lay, in part, with the tolerance of brothels in many of the theatres of war. In France, for instance, there was a system of maisons tolerées where prostitutes were registered and frequently checked by doctors for any sign of disease.[14] Although in decline by 1914, it was revived behind the front to ensure basic hygiene for troops in an attempt to offset the rise in the number of unregistered prostitutes caused by large numbers of women unable to support themselves. By 1917, there were at least 137 such establishments spread across 35 towns. Until 1918, when a public campaign by prominent feminist groups led to Parliament placing them out of bound for soldiers, the British military authorities grudgingly accepted the existence of maisons tolerées. [15]
Men were subjected to media campaigns about avoiding ‘immorality’ The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, provided each man with a leaflet offering him some intimate advice. It warned soldiers to ‘keep constantly on your guard against any excesses. In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women. You must entirely resist both.’ Nonetheless, roughly half of all cases of venereal disease originated in Britain. [16] Prostitutes had been allowed to solicit openly and it did not become a crime until 1916 when, using the Defence of the Realm legislation it was made an offence for them to approach men in uniform. Restrictions on prostitution were extended in 1918 when Regulation 40D of the Defence of the Realm Act made it illegal for a women with a venereal disease to have, or try to have, sex with a soldier and gave the police powers to examine suspected prostitutes medically, something the government had proposed the previous year in a Criminal Law Amendment Act but abandoned following widespread feminist opposition. [17] As a result, small number of women were actually imprisoned. For suffragette and moral campaigners this was reminiscent of the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s and led to extensive and fierce protest. Nonetheless, the legislation remained in place until the end of the war.
Most sexual encounters occurred not between soldiers and prostitutes but between soldiers and so-called amateur girls who were motivated by a range of emotions from love and desire, infatuation with men in uniform, sympathy or the exchange of sexual favours for material support. The number of illegitimate births rose from 4.2 per cent of total births in 1914 to 6.3 per cent in 1918. Attempts through moral pressure from the military authorities or regulation using the Defence of the Realm Act proved largely ineffective in either limiting those encounters or preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. There was anxiety among feminists who believed that the irresponsible behaviour of some members of their sex might subvert the achievement of those women, in and out of uniform, contributing to the war effort and damage the political case for full female citizenship.

[1] Grayzel, Susan R., Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War, (University of North Carolina Press), 1999, pp. 157-189, is a valuable comparative examination of changing sexualities.
[2] Ibid, Woollacott, Angela, ‘‘Khaki Fever’ and its Control: Gender, Class, Age and Sexual Morality on the British Homefront in the First World War’, p. 330, draws comparisons between the female hysteria associated with 1914 and that exhibited by adolescents since the 1960s for pop-stars. See also, Dyhouse, Carol, Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women, (Fernwood Publishing), 2013, pp. 70-74.
[3] ‘Work for the Women’. Grantham Journal, 12 September 1914, p. 8.
[4] Hammersley was an experienced senior officer who had fought in the Sudan in 1884-1885, at Khartoum in 1898 and in South Africa the following year. From 1906 to 1911, he commanded the 3rd Brigade at Aldershot until relieved as the result of a nervous breakdown. Despite this, he was given command of the 11th (Northern Division) on 22 August 1914 and commanded the landing at Suvla Bay by his division in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 until relieved of his command suffering from battle fatigue. He died in 1924.
[5] Licensed Victuallers and Soldiers’, Grantham Journal, 12 September 1914, p. 4. Further restrictions followed in November, ‘Further Licensing Restrictions’, Grantham Journal, 21 November 1914, p. 4, with no alcohol sold before 1 pm or between 2 and 4pm and December, ‘Another Drastic Military Order’, Grantham Journal, 19 December 1914, p. 8, threatening to close licensed premises if ‘on any occasion a soldier is found on the premises under the influence of liquor’. In practice, this meant temporary closure with, for instance, the Artichokes Inn being closed on 7 December but reopening on 15 December.
[6] ‘Work for the Women’. Grantham Journal, 12 September 1914, p. 8; the fault, and it was a central feature of the authorities’ discourse, lay with the girls…’and be a temptation’..
[7] ‘Women Police Patrols. An Innovation for Grantham’, Grantham Journal, 19 December 1914, p. 4.
[8] ‘The Women Police Service’, Grantham Journal, 6 November 1915, p. 8.
[9] ‘The Women Police Service’, Grantham Journal, 6 November 1915, p. 8.
[10] Jackson, Sophie, Women on Duty: A History of the First Female Police Force, (Fonthill Media), 2014.
[11] Rock, Alex, ‘The ‘khaki fever’ moral panic: Women’s patrols and the policing of cinemas in London, 1913-19’, Early Popular Visual Culture, Vol. 12, (1), (2014), pp. 57-72.
[12] Jackson, Louise A., Women Police: Gender, welfare and surveillance in the twentieth century, (Manchester University Press), 2006, adopts a thematic approach. Ibid, Woollacott, Angela, ‘‘Khaki Fever’ and its Control: Gender, Class, Age and Sexual Morality on the British Homefront in the First World War’, pp. 334-337, Levine, Philippa, ‘‘Walking the Streets in a Way No Decent Woman Should’, Women Police in World War One’, Journal of Modern History, Vol. 66, (1994), pp. 1-45.
[13] Mitchell, T. J., & Smith, G. M., Medical Services: Casualties and Medical Statistics of the Great War, (HMSO), 1931, p. 74.
[14] Gibson, Craig, Behind the Front: British Soldiers and French Civilians, 1914-1918, (Cambridge University Press), 2014, pp. 309-345.
[15] Hansard, House of Commons, Debates, 19 March 1918, Vol. 104, cc787-788.
[16] Law, C. Suffrage and Power: The Women's Movement, 1918-1928 (I. B. Tauris), 1997, pp. 27-30, explores the equal moral standard.
[17] Hansard, House of Commons, Debates, 24 July 1918, Vol. 108, cc1951-1970.