Image Women prisoners in the laundry at Boggo Road Gaol, 1903

TLF ID R9660

This black-and-white photograph from the 28 November 1903 edition of the 'Queenslander' shows eight women prisoners and one supervising female warder in the internal laundry of the new State Prison for Women on Boggo Road, Brisbane. The prisoners, dressed in their summer uniform of long dress, apron and mob-cap, all face away from the camera. The majority work over fixed washing troughs near barred windows and stand on wooden slatted duckboards. In the background others sort linen. Cane baskets can be seen on the floor.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This photograph was taken in Queensland's first purpose-built women's prison and shows evidence of the belief of penal reformers in the benefits of routine productive work. Another reform that resulted from the findings of an 1887 report, 'Inquiry into Queensland gaols', was the separation of different types of prisoners into different cells and separate yards to prevent hardened prisoners from mixing with young newcomers.
  • The routine orderly environment and prison clothing shown here are evidence of changing attitudes to the purpose of imprisonment from an exclusively punitive approach to one that also sought to rehabilitate. Rather than merely being a place of punishment, the prison was regarded by reformers as a secure place where lawbreakers were detained until their attitudes changed and they were rehabilitated into law-abiding citizens.
  • An inmate's weekday routine began at 5.50 am, when they arose, dressed and made their bed. At 6.30 am they left the cell to wash, and then mustered, collected a bowl of rough porridge and a day's ration of bread and ate breakfast in their cell. At 8 am they began the day's allotted work, which was undertaken in silence. A lunch of meat and vegetables was eaten at midday and work continued until 4 pm when a meal of porridge was eaten. Lights out was at 8 pm.
  • In 1903 the inmates of the prison pictured came mainly from the poorer classes. Many had multiple convictions and were seen as morally degenerate according to the attitudes of the time. Some had fallen on hard times and with no means of support had turned to prostitution. Others had been imprisoned for vagrancy, drunkenness, obscene language, indecent behaviour and theft. Some were imprisoned for attempted suicide, abortion or for having a mental illness.
  • The history of Brisbane's prisons for women began with the arrival of female convicts at Moreton Bay in the 1820s. They were set to work to help to build the new settlement. The Female Factory was built in 1829 and its inmates sewed, washed, cooked and did agricultural work. After the closure of the Female Factory in 1839, men and women prisoners shared the same jails until being separated in the late 1860s.

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  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
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  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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