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Charlotte Badger

and the

Good Ship Venus .

Charlotte Badger as depicted in a 1937 newspaper Rebecca Harkin

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Australia and pirate are not two terms that are generally associated with
one another outside the modern association of piracy and online copyright
infringement. With the first European settlement of Australia not occurring until
over sixty years after the end of the so called golden age of piracy, the
continent did not experience the pirate phenomenon popularly associated
with the eighteenth century, in particular in areas such as the Caribbean and
the Atlantic ocean.i While initially treated
as a violent scourge plaguing the era of
European expansion across the globe,
pirates would eventually become
romanticised figures, viewed as rogues
and rebels fighting against the rising
capitalist world order.ii

That is not however to say that Australia


did not have a hand in the overall
phenomena of romanticisation and
celebration of criminals as outlaw heroes,
in Australia this narrative has been
dominated by bushrangers with a public
perception that the bandits shared the
values and struggles of the poorest in
society.iii Arguably the most famous tale of
outlaw Australia is that of Ned Kelly and his 1.Australia's most notorious outlaw
bushranging career but some fifty years
before the birth of Kelly an outlaw emerged from the Australian colonies that
breaks the mould of the Australian bushranger/outlaw narrative.

2.Charlottes story has been largely forgotten in public memory, although reappears in popular culture from time to time

Charlotte Badger was a convict and mother turned pirate who would go on
to become an important figure in the history of New Zealand.

The near disappearance of Charlotte from popular public memory despite


history making achievements is a reflection on the male dominated narrative
of Australian history, particularly in regard to convict and outlaw stories.

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On July 13, 1806 the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser
reported on the proceedings of the deposition of Samuel Rodman Chace on
June 17 that same year in relation to the piratical capture of the Venus
colonial brig of which he was master at the time. The paper reports that on
June 8, while anchored at Lagoon Beach in Port Dalrymple first mate
Benjamin Kelly along with pilot David Evans and New South Wales Corps
private Richard Thompson,
forcibly confined the ships
second mate Richard Evans
and moved the brig out to sea
with several crew still
remaining on board as well as
3.The first headline detailing the theft of the Venus. two female convicts,
Catharine Hagerty and
Charlotte Badger. Despite no suggestion in this initial report of any
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involvement in this crime by the two women aboard the Venus at the time of
its capture, this event would come to serve as the recognised beginning
point of the pirate career of Charlotte Badger, considered to be Australias
first female pirate.

Coming from a poor family in England, details of Charlottes early life are
sparse however it is known that she was baptised on the 31st of July 1778 at
Bromsgrove in Worcester, England in the presence of her parents Thomas and
Ann.v Charlotte is next recorded to have been convicted of a crime in 1796
and sentenced to a term of seven years transportation, arriving in Port
Jackson, Sydney aboard the Earl Cornwallis in 1801.vi The charge that resulted
in Charlottes conviction is not clear; some
reports detail a charge of housebreaking,
suggested to be as a result of a desperate
need to feed her poor family while a 1952 story
in the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and
Gloucester Advertiser reports that Charlottes
criminal and pirate career began when she
was picked up and sentenced on a charge as
a pickpocket.viiIn early 1806, with two years
remaining on her sentence Charlotte gave
birth to an illegitimate
daughter while serving
time as an inmate of the
Parramatta Female
Factory before being
assigned to work as a 4.Charlotte came from a poor family in
Worcester
servant to a settler in

5.Sketch of the Earl Cornwallis


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Hobart, along with her friend from the Factory Catharine Hagerty.viii

It is at this point in the story of the life and criminal career of Charlotte Badger
that retellings and interpretations of her actions and motives begin to move
towards two distinctly different paths, one drawing on the prior claims of theft
to save her family to portray her as a dedicated mother who wanted nothing
more than to get her beloved child out of the brutality of convict life while
the other paints her as nothing more than a violent and ruthless criminal.

The more sympathetic views of Charlotte describe her as having been


implicated in the unlawful seizure of the ship through her presence alone or
alternatively as the female leader of oppressed men, delivering justice after
episodes of brutality from a cruel, tyrant of a captain.ix These portrayals of a
loving mother go on to describe Charlotte as ending her criminal ways after
the piratical capture of the ship and escape from Australia. The story goes
that Charlotte and her child, along with Catharine Hagerty, Benjamin Kelly
and another crew member John Lancashire disembarked the ship after
arriving at the Bay of Islands in the far north of New Zealand and settled
there, leaving the remaining crew to
sail away alone the New Zealand
coast with the Venus. With this act
Charlotte Badger, Catharine Hagerty
and Charlottes daughter became the
first white female settlers of New
Zealand.x The version of Charlottes
adventure told in 1952 includes the
assertion that eight years after settling
in New Zealand the local Maori were
bribed by visiting British officials into
hand over Kelly and Lancashire upon
which they were taken to England and
hanged for their crimes. Charlotte
would however escape capture and
not be found again until many years
later when an American ship captain
encountered her on an island in Tonga
after which she sailed away with him,
never to be heard of again.xi
6.Bay of Islands, New Zealand
In contrast, the competing narrative of
Charlotte Badgers life is one of a hardened, ruthless criminal with a violent
streak, ill-suited to anything other than her life of crime and piracy. On
Sunday the 27th of July 1806 a public notice was issue in the Sydney Gazette
and New South Wales Advertiser in regard to the theft of the Venus by
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Charlotte and her group. The notice named Benjamin Kelly as the leader of
this new pirate group and
notably included Charlotte in
the list of perpetrators,
describing her as very
corpulent with full face, thick
lips and light hair and noted
that he had with her an infant
child.xii An account of
Charlottes pirate life and
pirate career that appeared
in the Sydney Morning Herald
in October 1937 described
7.An article detailing the events of Charlottes life was printed in 1937
Charlotte as a remarkable
woman of early convict Australia who went on to have a colourful career as
Australias only known woman pirate. The narrative of this telling is a dramatic
shift from more sympathetic accounts of Charlottes life, beginning with the
statement that Charlotte did not merely inspire the mutiny, she entered into a
partnership with Benjamin Kelly and played an active role in the theft.xiii

This account, far less favourable to Charlotte paints a picture of a young,


good looking woman with a violent temper who thrived on danger leading
the mutineers and being every bit as brutal as the captain of the Venus was
before her. Before leaving the coast for open water Charlotte boarded
another brig and stripped it of all food, weapons, and equipment.xiv Now
dressed in male clothing, Charlotte took command of the Venus with Kelly,
here referred to as John rather than Benjamin serving as her navigator as the
now undermanned ship set out across the Tasman, headed for New Zealand.
In this version of events again the British arrive at the Bay of Islands in a man-
o-war and the local population hand
over the former pirates for a reward,
Charlotte managed to slip away and
avoid the death sentence to be
handed to her comrades back on
British soil, reportedly after receiving a
warning from locals. The Sydney
Morning Herald story then expands
on reports of Charlotte in Tonga
referencing the arrival of the
American ship Lafayette in Sydney as
being the bringer of the final new of
Charlotte Badger. During a stop at
Vavau in the Tongan Islands the s hips
8.Charlotte is believed to have resettled in New England
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crew were told of a white woman with a child who has passed through the
island aboard a whaling ship bound for New England, she spoke fluently in a
Polynesian language and regaled the locals with tales of her time in New
Zealand.xv

Some accounts of her life claim that Charlotte was successful in her escape
to America where she lived out the rest of her life which would go some way
to explaining her disappearance from public memory, it can be hard to
remember those that do not wish to be. Some official New South Wales
records however suggest that Charlotte did in fact return.

A convict muster register from 1825 lists a


Charlotte Badger as residing in Parramatta
with a ten-year-old daughter, Maria. This
Charlotte is similarly listed as arriving aboard the
Earl Cornwallis in 1801, however her year of
birth is listed as 1785, some 7 years after the
documented baptism date of Charlotte the
pirate. The age of the child, Maria is also a
point of contention, by 1825 the child Charlotte
gave birth to in the Parramatta female factory
would have been herself an adult. These
inconsistencies do not rule out the possibility
that Charlotte returned to New South, either
through choice or capture, she may have had
9.Page from 1825 NSW Convict Muster
another child in her time in New Zealand and
mistakes in personal details could be as a result
of poor record keeping. It is however more likely that these are two separate
women with either the same or similar names that has resulted in confusion
amongst convict records.xvi

For women like Charlotte the way their stories are viewed and remembered
are tied to the expectations of female behaviour and gender roles of the
time. For many of these women their convict status defines their life and
prevents them from conforming to expectations of respectability.xvii This
notion is reflected in the portrayals of Charlotte as a dedicated mother
attempted to escape the convict life for her child.

Charlottes story, whether viewed as a tale of daring adventure and escape


and survival against the odds or one of violent criminal behaviour feeds into
the themes and stereotypes at the core of Australian national identity. The
traits of strength and bravery, distrust and disdain of authority and a value of
mateship that grew from the Anzac legend to typify the Australian character
have long been retroactively applied to earlier Australian heroes.xviii Disdain
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for authority is said to have grown from the convict past while men like those
of the Kelly gang were said to be fighting against injustice felt by themselves
and their community, they were standing up for the little guy.

While Charlotte can be viewed


through the lens of the typical
Australian character through
her clear disdain for the
authority of the convict system
and for the captain of the
Venus, she is at a distinct
disadvantage in terms of these
traits and public memory. These
stereotypes have usually been
reserved for men, certainly not
to be used in the telling of the 10.Watercolour of the Parramatta Female Factory, where many convict
women were housed.
story of a criminal convict
woman. Convict women for much of the narrative of early Australia were
ignored or pushed to the periphery, they remained voiceless and all but
invisible.xix

When women were included the narrative of convict women has long
painted them as degenerates and harlots, incapable of anything but acts of
extreme debauchery.xx

The history making life and achievements of Charlotte have seemingly not
been enough to overcome the male domination of Australian popular
memory, although her life is well documented in official government sources
from New Zealand and she has received some notoriety in more recent
times.xxi

In 2002 Charlotte Badger was the subject of a historical fiction novel


that in 2008 was adapted into a play, the official synopsis of which
reads

This original play with songs and music chronicles the extraordinary true
life story of Bromsgrove lass Charlotte Badger, who, when convicted at
Worcester assizes for a minor offence in 1796 was transported on the first
female penal ship to Australia. The sequence of events which follows tells
how Charlotte became the most feared female pirate in history whilst
bringing up a daughterxxii

A second, later play titles Vagabonds includes Charlotte Badger in a


fictionalised account of a troupe of actors travelling through New
Zealand
In 2013 musician Jack Hayter released the song Charlotte Badger,
detailing a somewhat fictionalised account of the pirates life.xxiii

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Most notably Charlottes life inspired the lyrics to the outlandish drinking song
Good Ship Venus that would be rerecorded and released as Friggin' in the
Riggin in 1979 by British band Sex Pistols as part of the album and
mockumentary The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

The mystery of Charlotte Badger and the Venus is one that will likely never be
solved. We may never know if Charlotte met her end among the Maori like
her friend Catharine or made it all the way to New England. Perhaps she did
in fact return to New South Wales or maybe even found her way back to
Bromsgrove. Whatever the case may be Charlotte certainly deserve her
place in history as the first known Australian female pirate and first female
white settler of New Zealand

On the good ship Venus


By Christ you should have seen us
We were young we were free
we were queens of the sea
-Charlotte Badger, lyrics by Jack Hayter

Jack Hayters song Charlotte Badger can be heard at:


https://jackhaytermusic.bandcamp.com/track/charlotte-badger
or
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7sTfdcVwdw

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Sources Some items have been cited in accordance with
archive/database required referencing

Primary
News Articles

Piratical capture of the Venus colonial brig, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 13 Jul
1806, 4, in Trove [online database], accessed 26 Sep. 2017.
Some Early Charactes, Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 25 Jun 1952, 4, in
Trove [online database], accessed 13 Sep. 2017.
Public Notice, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 Jul 1806, 1, in Trove [online
database], accessed 17 Sep. 2017.
Australias Only Woman Pirate, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1937, in Trove [online database],
accessed 8 Aug. 2017.

Archives

England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

Charlotte Badger, one of 296 convicts transported on the Earl Cornwallis, August 1800. Criminal :
Convict transportation registers [HO 11], Canberra A.C.T. : Australian Joint Copying Project.

Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives
Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew,
Surrey, England.

Secondary
Bialuschewski, Arne, BETWEEN NEWFOUNDLAND AND THE MALACCA STRAIT: A SURVEY OF THE
GOLDEN AGE OF PIRACY, 16951725, The International Quarterly Journal of The Society for Nautical
Research, 90/2 (2004), 167-186.

Drofenik, Lou, Damned whores or founding mothers? Representations of convict women in


Australian literature, Acta Scientiarum : Language and Culture, 32/1 (2010), 97-98.

Duffield, Ian, Haul away the anchor girls': Charlotte Badger, tall stories and the pirates of the 'bad
ship Venus', Journal of Australian Colonial History, 7 (2005), 35-64.

Ormsby, Mary Louise, 'Badger, Charlotte', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b1/badger-charlotte (accessed 5 October 2017).

Peel, Mark and Twomey, Christina, A History of Australia, (Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan,
2011).

West, Susan The Thiefdom: Bushrangers, supporters and social banditry in 1860s New South
Wales, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 101/2 (2015), 134-155.

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Other
Charlotte Badger, Bandcamp [website], (2013)
< https://jackhaytermusic.bandcamp.com/track/charlotte-badger>

Euan Rose, Doolle: The Playwrights Database [website], (2003)


< http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsR/rose-euan.html#48611> entry 3, accessed 12 Oct. 2017.

Images
Title page
image from article
Australias Only Woman Pirate, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1937, in Trove [online database],
accessed 8 Aug. 2017.
Body Pages
1. 1880. NED KELLY : (Sketched as he was leaving Benalla), David Syme and Co, Melbourne.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/167573632?q&versionId=182638537
2. image from article
Australias Only Woman Pirate, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1937, in Trove [online
database], accessed 8 Aug. 2017.
3. Image from article
Piratical capture of the Venus colonial brig, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales
Advertiser, 13 Jul 1806, 4, in Trove [online database], accessed 26 Sep. 2017.
4. Bowles, Carington & Paterson, Daniel. 1782, Bowles's new and accurate map of England and
Wales comprehending all the cities, boroughs, market and sea port towns, villages, lakes,
rivers, forests, ruins and principal seats of the nobility; with the roads engraved by Daniel
Paterson, ... to which is added the south part of Scotland, and east of Ireland; with the
maritime provinces of France, from Dunkirk to Brest, and inland country to Paris Printed for
the proprietor Carington Bowles No.69 St. Pauls Church Yard, London viewed 6 October
2017 http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-231574716
5. Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) Earl Cornwallis, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon
Collection, USA.
6. Great Britain. Hydrographic Department & Dupperey, Louis Isadore & Laplace, Cyrille Pierre
Theodore, 1793-1875 & Bate, R. B. (Robert Brettell) & J. & C. Walker 1836, New Zealand,
(North Isle). Bay of Islands, Published according to Act of Parliament at the Hydrographical
Office of the Admiralty : Sold by R.B. Bate agent for the Admiralty charts, 21 Poultry,
[London]
http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/11851866?q&versionId=13965728
7. image from article
Australias Only Woman Pirate, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1937, in Trove [online
database], accessed 8 Aug. 2017.
8. Williams, Alexander 1854, Telegraph and Rail Road map of the New England States, Boston
http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/7116786?q&versionId=8191532
9. Image from entry
Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication
HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.
10. Earle, Augustus. 1826, Female penitentiary or factory, Parramata [i.e. Parramatta], N.S.
Wales , viewed 17 October 2017
http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-134500491

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i
Arne Bialuschewski, BETWEEN NEWFOUNDLAND AND THE MALACCA STRAIT: A SURVEY OF THE
GOLDEN AGE OF PIRACY, 16951725, The International Quarterly Journal of The Society for Nautical
Research, 90/2 (2004), 167-168.
ii
Arne Bialuschewski, BETWEEN NEWFOUNDLAND AND THE MALACCA STRAIT: A SURVEY OF THE
GOLDEN AGE OF PIRACY, 16951725, The International Quarterly Journal of The Society for Nautical
Research, 90/2 (2004), 167.
iii
Susan West, The Thiefdom: Bushrangers, supporters and social banditry in 1860s New South
Wales, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 101/2 (2015), 135.
iv
Piratical capture of the Venus colonial brig, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 13
Jul 1806, 4, in Trove [online database], accessed 26 Sep. 2017.
v
England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
vi
Charlotte Badger, one of 296 convicts transported on the Earl Cornwallis, August 1800. Criminal :
Convict transportation registers [HO 11], Canberra A.C.T. : Australian Joint Copying Project.
vii
Mary Louise Ormsby. 'Badger, Charlotte', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b1/badger-charlotte (accessed 5 October 2017)
viii
Some Early Charactes, Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 25 Jun 1952, 4, in
Trove [online database], accessed 13 Sep. 2017.
ix
Ian Duffield, Haul away the anchor girls': Charlotte Badger, tall stories and the pirates of the 'bad
ship Venus', Journal of Australian Colonial History, 7 (2005), 35-64.
x
Mary Louise Ormsby. 'Badger, Charlotte', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b1/badger-charlotte (accessed 5 October 2017)
xi
Some Early Charactes, Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 25 Jun 1952, 4, in
Trove [online database], accessed 13 Sep. 2017.
xii
Public Notice, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 Jul 1806, 1, in Trove [online
database], accessed 17 Sep. 2017.
xiii
Australias Only Woman Pirate, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1937, in Trove [online database],
accessed 8 Aug. 2017.
xiv
ibid
xv
ibid
xvi
Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives
Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew,
Surrey, England.
xvii
Mary Louise Ormsby. 'Badger, Charlotte', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b1/badger-charlotte (accessed 5 October 2017)
xviii
Mark Peel and Christina Twomey, A History of Australia, (Hampshire, England: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2011), 161.
xix
Lou Drofenik, Damned whores or founding mothers? Representations of convict women in
Australian literature, Acta Scientiarum : Language and Culture, 32/1 (2010), 97-98.
xx
Ibid, 98.
xxi
Mary Louise Ormsby. 'Badger, Charlotte', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b1/badger-charlotte (accessed 5 October 2017)
xxii
Euan Rose, Doolle: The Playwrights Database [website], (2003)
< http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsR/rose-euan.html#48611> entry 3, accessed 12 Oct. 2017.
xxiii
Charlotte Badger, Bandcamp [website], (2013)
< https://jackhaytermusic.bandcamp.com/track/charlotte-badger>

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