Focus Story

This page focuses on one of the many female factory stories and changes from time to time so that we can share more stories. If you know more about the women, the factories or the staff and would like to share a story please contact us and we will be happy to share it here.




Elizabeth Browning Owen was born about 1792, most likely in the parish of Newington, Surrey. From age 19 Elizabeth’s life as a mother began when she gave birth to son John. Every two years for the ensuing six, she gave birth to a child – Eliza, Robert and then Elizabeth. Sometime after the birth of her fourth child she was alone caring for them. She had skills with her hands, a good eye and a sense of precision. She found her way into forging. Elizabeth was tried at the Surry Assizes on 25th March 1820 and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years.

It was almost two months between the trial and embarkation on the Morley. During this period she was separated from her children. Her children ranged from three to nine years old. Her nine year old child is deemed too old to travel with the mother. Elizabeth Browning Owen was extremely distressed with the prospect of separation by transportation.  The ships surgeon Thomas Reid noted her struggle at the time of embarkation. He said that:

At 6pm … a person arrived saying he had brought four children belonging to Browning Owen, a convict, but had left them at Woolwich, being uncertain whether they would be received on board. One of them happened to be three years above the age permitted [aged 9]. The case of this poor woman seems one of aggravated distress: About nine months since, her husband incited her to commit a crime; and after involving her in guilt and misery, left her with a helpless family without a friend in the world. Her conduct having been exceedingly good since she came on board, induced me to lay a statement of her case before Mr Capper, for consideration of the Secretary of State, whose benevolence granted permission for all the children to be embarked and accompany her.[i]

Her children – John 9 years, Eliza 7, Robert 5 and Elizabeth 3 – boarded the Ship Morley (3), were reunited with their mother and joined another 121 female prisoners. The ship arrived in Sydney 1820 via Hobart. Elizabeth married Emanuel MARVIN in 1822. And worked with him at The General Bourke/Governor Bourke  Hotel, Parramatta in 1839. She died in Parramatta in 1839.

Today there are many of Elizabeth’s descendants in Australia, particularly around Goulburn and in Sydney.

If you have more information on Elizabeth and would like to share please email us through the contact form under the home tab.



[i] Reid, Thomas, Two voyages to new South Wles and Van Diemen’s Land, xx , p117

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Ordinary Women Extraordinary Lives