Born in 1770, 250 years ago, Sarah Bellamy was one of the longest lived first fleeters by the time of her death in 1843. Owing to the dearth of records, hers and the lives of other women transported from England to arrive in Botany Bay in 1788 have been described as ‘unthinkable history’. Bellamy appears to be the antithesis of this HRC seminar series. She left no writing and we have no image of her except the description of her long red hair. Nevertheless, historians and historical demographers have used convict records and collective biography to write the lives of women like Bellamy. In this paper historian and General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) Melanie Nolan and historical demographer Rebecca Kippen show how we can use convict records not only to write an account Bellamy’s life but to place it in its social context. So much so, that Bellamy’s story is amongst the lives that will be added to the ADB, Australia’s largest and longest-running social sciences and humanities project, which is currently being revised to include lives previously ‘unthinkable’.
Melanie Nolan is Professor of History, Director of the National Centre of Biography and General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU. She is a labour historian whose research interests include biography.
Rebecca Kippen is Associate Professor of Demography in the School of Rural Health, Monash University. Her research interests include longitudinal demographic studies of historical and contemporary Australian populations.
* The lecture is part of the Humanities Research Centre's series 'Works that Shaped the World: Born in 1770'.