Elizabeth Capel (1817-1880)
Committing a violent crime like stabbing marked a woman as unusual. As a convict, Mrs Capel did it hard. She was recorded as being ‘insolent’ and ‘disobedient’, and then she found herself pregnant.
Expectant mothers under sentence were locked away, and Mrs Capel was sent to the Female Factory at Ross. She gave birth to a son, but he died of pleurisy, a lung disease. Then her fortunes changed.
At thirty, Mrs Capel married Thomas Self, a 50-year-old ex-convict, and went on to have six more children. Thomas opened a ‘drapery’, a business selling cloth for furnishings and clothes. When he died she took over the management. Her success brought social status. It also generated enough money for her Tasmanian family, and the now adult children she’d abandoned when she left England.