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The Tin Ticket


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About the Author

Deborah J. Swiss received her Ed.D. from Harvard University, and is the author of Women and the Work/ Family Dilemma, Women Breaking Through, and The Male Mind at Work. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Australia's early years as a prison colony to which British convicts were transported are well known, but less noted is that among those convicts were 25,000 women from England and Ireland sent there in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Mostly desperate petty thieves, these women suffered from abuse, poor living conditions inside and out of prison, and a world offering few options to their gender. Swiss (The Male Mind at Work) tells the story of the convict women through the experiences of several, e.g., Agnes McMillan of Glasgow-convicted of shoplifting-whom Swiss presents as typifying the experience. Swiss vividly relates McMillan's rough life in Glasgow, her difficult passage halfway around the world, and brutal imprisonment in what is now Tasmania, before earning her freedom. Swiss certainly succeeds as a storyteller, weaving a tale from her research, but she is less successful in placing McMillan and the other women into a larger sociological or historical context, or in going on to define their significance to Australia's beginnings. Verdict While Swiss does well as a raconteur, advanced students may be disappointed in her work as history.-Elizabeth Goldman, Perth & Union Dist. P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"The Irish feature in disproportionate numbers among the convicts transported to Australia. The number of female Irish convicts rose considerably in the aftermath of the great Irish Famine, a period which also saw the transportation of more than 4,000 Irish orphans girls as "breeding stock" for the new colony. Deborah Swiss brings new light and insight into the story of female convicts transported to Australia and in telling this story through the lives of a number of individual women brings home to us both the tragedy and the triumph of these resilient women."
-Mssirtfn + Fainfn, Ambassador of Ireland

"Deborah Swiss eloquently and engagingly uncovers a buried and important piece of Australian "herstory," convicted women who endured injustice, cruelty, and hardship. Even more than that, Swiss skillfully illuminates their essence in their extraordinary resilience, determination, and courage. An inspiration to all."

-Birute Regine, author of Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World.

"The Tin Ticket powerfully illustrates the unimaginable vulnerability and desperation that came with being poor and female two hundred years ago in Britain. But the stories of the women in this book are not too different from those of the millions who are trafficked across continents even today for cheap labor or sex. And like these women, the founding mothers of Australia exemplify the same remarkable resilience and resourcefulness that women show to pull themselves and their families out of adversity. The Tin Ticket tells their story, and enriches our shared history as women and as human beings."
-Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President, Women Thrive Worldwide

"History books far too often scant the stories of women, of the poor, and of those swallowed up in the prison system. Deborah Swiss has broken this triple barrier to bring us a moving and fascinating story -- both of forgotten people who were ruthlessly exploited, and of a remarkable woman who did much to help them."
-Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost and Bury the Chains, co-founder of Mother Jones.

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