The Story of Betty Steel: Deaf Convict and Pioneer
"In 1991, beneath the floor of the Sydney Town Hall, workmen unearthed an old gravestone made of yellow sandstone. On the headstone could be deciphered the words: In memory of Eliz. Steel who died June 7th 1795 ... Aged .... Elizabeth Steel was deaf. As far as we know she was the first deaf person to arrive in Australia from England. This is her story. The book traces the journey of Betty Steel from one of the worst of London's slums to the hellish conditions of Clerkenwell and Newgate prisons, before journeying with her across unknown seas to Sydney and Norfold Island. It is the story of her life on the transport ship 'Lady Juliana', first on the Thames where she was crowded below the decks with more than two hundred other convicts, and then on the long and dangerous journey to Australia. Here too is the story of her life on Norfolk Island where she pioneered a farm with her husband James Mackey, himself an ex-convict, before moving back to Sydney when payments from the governemnt for their maize were not honoured, only to die twelve months later. This is also a story told from the point of view of Betty herself, an imaginative history which builds on the bedrock of conventional evidence to create a subaltern history, a history told by a woman from deep within communities whose members have usually been condemned to the margins of history, denied individual historical identity and denied a voice. A deaf pioneer emerges from the shadows to tell her moving and epic tale." - back cover.
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