A Land Down Under

The WIP is finished! No more Henry VIII story forever! (Okay, that’s not entirely true. The rough draft is done, I’m still polishing and tweaking. But the hardest part is over!). I saw two movies over the Memorial Day weekend (this is unusual, even though I love movies, because the huge multiplex that always has Exclusive Engagements on the interesting films is in the middle of the mall and is a pain to get to. I usually wait for the DVD). I saw Waitress, a wonderful little gem I highly recommend, just be sure you have somewhere to go for pie afterward. And I saw Pirates 3. I was disappointed. Very, very disappointed. Very, very, very–you get the picture. And I found this great website that sells beautiful handmade pendants. I’m going to order the Jane Austen and Marie Antoinette models ASAP, and don’t be surprised if you see the Muses necklaces as giveaways here someday when my Muse books come out.

And now the point of this post (yes, I do sometimes have one). I don’t know a lot about Australian history. What little I do know comes from books like Blue Latitudes and The Fatal Shore, and movies like Strictly Ballroom (though I don’t imagine SB is really represantative of the lives of most–or any–Australians!). A couple weeks ago I saw an episode of the PBS series Secrets of the Dead called The Voyage of the Courtesans (to be more accurate, they really should have called it “The Voyage of the Streetwalkers and Pickpockets,” but whatever). It was very fascinating!

Three modern Australian women wanted to trace the lives of their convict ancestors from the late 18th century. The research starts in London, where they go to the British Library to track down old court records. An historian took one of the women to what’s left of Newgate (I didn’t realize there were still cells left, underground beneath a block of posh flats–very creepy), and told her what life was like for the women before they were transported. Then they follow the 10-month voyage, their arrival in Australia, and what happened to them there.

It was also quite inspiring. One of the women (an 18 year old prostitute at the beginning) ends up running a chain of pubs and owning two houses. One runs a ferry service with several employees. One marries a rich shipowner and becomes a famous hostess, invited to balls at the governor’s house. And one (11 years old when she was caught thieving and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to transportation for life in an amnesty following George III’s “recovery from madness”)–she ends up dying at nearly 90, surrounded by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. Respectable and loved. They all did far better for themselves there than they ever could have in London.

Any of these women would make terrific heroines in novels! They came from the most adverse conditions imaginable, and built terrific lives for themselves. Amazing.

A few links:

Voyage of the Courtesans

Australian Explorer

More Australia stuff

Roger Ebert’s Review of Strictly Ballroom

Have any of you ever tried to trace your ancestors? What did you find? And have you seen any good movies so far this summer???

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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