Mary Bryant, 1765–94

Lithograph of the First Fleet entering Port Jackson, 26 January 1788, by Edmund Le Bihan
  • Mary Bryant was born in Fowey, Cornwall in 1765, the daughter of a poor fisherman.
  • With few opportunities in Cornwall, Bryant moved to Plymouth, nearby. She quickly fell into a life of petty crime including pickpocketing and highway robbery.
  • Bryant was arrested along with her female accomplices and the judge sentenced them all to seven years’ transportation to Australia.
  • Mary Bryant was transported with other convicts in 1787 on the First Fleet.
  • Bryant would have to work on the newly established prisoner colony until her sentence was complete; she then had the choice to remain in Australia or to return to England.
  • In 1791 Bryant and a number of other convicts managed to steal a ship from the Governor of the penal colony and made their escape, first stopping in Indonesia to resupply. It was there that Dutch authorities realised they were escaped convicts and put them on a British vessel that took them all back to England. There Bryant served the remainder of her prison sentence before living for some years as a free woman in Cornwall with her family.