Australia in the 1800s

The Female Orphan School

Until 1801 there was little care offered to destitute and orphaned children in the New South Wales colony. Governor King (1758–1808) estimated that of 958 children listed at the general muster in 1800, 398 were neglected. He gathered support and, in partnership with Reverend Samuel Marsden, opened a school for destitute girls near Sydney Cove in 1801. The Female Orphan School was a residential school for neglected, orphaned and destitute girls, opening with 31 girls ranging from 9 to 14 years old. The girls received clothing, bedding, board and instruction in needlework, spinning and reading. No arithmetic was taught.

The school was directed and managed by an appointed committee of private citizens consisting of prominent people including Reverends Johnson and Marsden, two surgeons, Mrs Anna King, the governor's wife, and Mrs Elizabeth Paterson, wife of Major William Paterson, the commander of the New South Wales Corps. The school was maintained by donations and public revenue from levies and duties imposed on goods.

By 1806, six girls had married and eleven were apprenticed to officer's wives. One of the six girls was Mary Peat who, in 1803, married Lawrence Brady, a baker. She was the first woman married from the Female Orphan School. But the majority of the girls were sent as servants to officer's wives supporting the view of the school as preparing girls for domestic service.

Rev Samuel Marsden_1800

A snapshot of 1808

  • January
    • The governor, Captain William Bligh, was deposed and placed under house arrest.

  • May
    • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell became surveyor-general following the death of John Oxley.

  • September
    • The first medical diploma in the colony was issued to William Redfern.

  • October
    • The colonial office in London announced the recall of the New South Wales Corps to England.

  • November
    • The Cascades Female Factory for women convicts opened in Hobart Town.


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