Heather Garnsey

Elizabeth Raine

Heather Garnsey is a descendant of the first matron at the purpose built Parramatta Female Factory.

A short presentation given at the Female Factory Bicentennial Day, July 2018

Elizabeth Raine was Matron, or Superintendent, of the Parramatta Female Factory from May 1824 until October 1827.  She was a remarkable woman, and I don’t just say that because she was my ancestor.

Born in London in 1781 of Huguenot descent as Elizabeth Azire, she married a schoolmaster John Fulloon in 1802 and appeared destined to live a rather ordinary nineteenth century London life.[1]

However, as a 42 year old mother with five children, Elizabeth was appointed as Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory, while her husband John was given the role of  storekeeper – a far less important position than Elizabeth’s, and at half her salary. [2]

The family set off for NSW, but John Fulloon never made it, dying on the voyage through a broken constitution and a lack of alcohol.[3] Elizabeth took up her duties within two weeks of reaching Sydney and her time as Superintendent was generally well regarded. The Monitor reported in August 1826 that ‘this establishment is conducted on the most systematic and (for its inmates) comfortable arrangements.  The cleanliness and regularity observable in its management reflects the highest credit on the Matron, under whose superintendence the inmates of the Factory profess themselves much contentment’. [4]

By 1826 the Colonial Returns showed that Elizabeth was earning £200 per year, more than many of her male counterparts working in similar establishments. [5]

Elizabeth settled into her new life, marrying Robert Raine of Parramatta in November 1826.[6]  Within three months she had advised Governor Darling of her wish to resign as Matron.  He wrote to England stating “I see no chance of finding a person here for the situation. If Mrs Raine had not been a woman of extraordinary bodily strength and energy of character she could not have undergone the fatigue she has been exposed to.  An Assistant Matron will also be required, as no one woman is equal to so extensive a charge and superintendence.”[7]

It is, of course, well known that the supposed ‘contentment’ of the inmates did not last and on her final day of service, 26 October 1827 Elizabeth Raine was attacked by inmates and had to be rescued by the Parramatta Constabulary.  The next day the new Matron, Anne Gordon (who was given two Assistant Matrons) cut rations and the famous Factory Riot took place, with hundreds of women absconding into Parramatta, leaving the township in uproar. [8]

For Elizabeth Raine it was a dramatic end to her time as Matron of the Female Factory.  She moved into Sydney where she ran a Ladies Academy with her daughters in O’Connell Street, outlived a third husband, William Speed, and died in 1842 at the age of 63.[9]

[1] St James Clerkenwell Parish Register records that Elizabeth Azire was born 8 February 1781 and baptised 18 March 1781, daughter of Robert and Pheby Azire.  London Metropolitan Archives via Ancestry.com, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1812.  See A New Tapestry, Australian Huguenot Families, Robert Nash(ed) for the Huguenot Society of Australia, Chapter 3 for details of the Azire’s Huguenot ancestry.

[2] Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Volume 11, p.148, Letter from Under Secretary Horton to Sir Thomas Brisbane, 5 November 1823.

[3] Surgeon Superintendent’s Journal, Voyage of the convict ship The Brothers, 1824.  Australian Joint Copying Project, PRO Reel 3190

[4] Sydney Monitor, 25 August 1826, p.2.

[5] Returns of the Colony 1826, “Blue Books” 1822-57, NSW State Archives & Records via Ancestry.com

[6] Elizabeth Fulloon married Robert Raine, bachelor at St Philip’s Church, Sydney on 13 November 1826, Society of Australian Genealogists, Reel 0090  

[7] Historical Records of Australia Series 1, Volume 13, pps 104-105, Governor Darling to Under Secretary Hay, 10 February 1827

[8] Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, 31 October 1827

[9] Marriage to William John Speed at St James Church Sydney on 12 March 1832, Society of Australian Genealogists Reel 0062, and death of Elizabeth Speed on 12 June 1842 at O’Connell Street Sydney, Sydney Morning Herald 14 June 1842.