Elizabeth Parker was charged with breaking and entering and stealing one linen gown and one shirt according to John Cobley’s book Crimes Of The First Fleet on the 31st October 1784. She was convicted at the Gloucester Lent Assizes on the 23rd March 1785 for grand larceny, and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years (1).


In Castle Gaol, Gloucester, Elizabeth met another convict, Edward Pugh, who was also convicted at the Gloucester Assizes.  Whether they knew each other before they were both sent to gaol in Gloucester is not known as yet, but they were in gaol together and Elizabeth fell pregnant.  It has not been established whether they were married at this time, but accounts of the time indicate that it was important for a female prisoner to be taken under the protection of a male prisoner, otherwise she was at the mercy of all around her.

Elizabeth and Edward, along with their baby daughter Ann and another convict Betty Mason, were ordered to Portsmouth to board the Prince of Wales on the 23rd March, 1787.Elizabeth, Edward and Ann were again transferred to the First Fleet vessel Friendship on the 10th April, 1787 (2) and the information recorded for Elizabeth by 2nd Lieutenant of Marines, Ralph Clark, was: female, occupation none, age 22, housebreaking, 7 years, child a girl.


During the voyage things did not go well for Elizabeth, and Lt. Ralph Clark states in his journal, date the 6th October 1787,  “I almost forgot to mention Elizabeth Pugh and Rachael Harley were put in big irons together, the former for quarrelling and ‘dirtyness’ and the latter for ‘dirtyness’ and theft”.  On the 11th October he reports that the doctor found her (Elizabeth) to be very ill and ordered that she be put out of irons until she got better.  She was accordingly put out, but the chains still remained on the other. Perhaps her ill health accounts for her conduct.

After the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson the female convicts were not landed until the 6th February.  It appears she may still have been ill when the fleet arrived in Port Jackson.  Within a very short time after landing Elizabeth Parker died, and was buried on the 19th February 1788 according to the Mutch Index with her name being registered as Pugh (3). It is mentioned in Dr. John Cobley’s book Sydney Cove 1788 that 2 convicts died at this time, one being the first male convict to die in the colony.  It would seem that Elizabeth Pugh nee Parker was the first white woman to die in the colony.  Sadly Elizabeth and Edward’s daughter, Ann, died a short time later in June the same year. Her death is also registered in the name Pugh.

Unfortunately it is not known what illness Elizabeth died from, but after reading the book An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (Volume 1) by David Collins 1756 -1810, we may take an educated guess at its being dysentery.


In the following paragraph taken from this book it states:

“The women did not disembark until the 6th of February; when, every person belonging to the settlement being landed, the numbers amounted to 1030 persons. The tents for the sick were placed on the West side, and it was observed with concern that their numbers were fast increasing. The scurvy that had not appeared during the passage, now broke out, which, aided by dysentery, began to fill the hospital, and several died. In addition to the medicines that were administered, every species of esculent plants that could be found in the country were procured for them; wild celery, spinach, and parsley, fortunately grew in abundance about the settlement; those who were in health, as well as the sick, were very glad to introduce them into their messes, and found them a pleasant as well as wholesome addition to the ration of salt provisions”.


Elizabeth has no descendants but was known as the wife of Edward Pugh.  It is, therefore, important that she be remembered in our family history. It seems Elizabeth Parker was the first female to die on Australian soil and this should be recognised and not forgotten. An early map of the first settlement shows the hospital and the cemetery: the cemetery was in the area near where the southern pylon of the harbour bridge is today, and hopefully there will one day be a plaque placed here to remember her.


An interesting footnote. Edward Pugh’s first daughter, Harriett, married a Stephen Parker. Their first daughter was named Elizabeth, and thus was another Elizabeth Parker, granddaughter of Edward Pugh and Hannah Smith


Valerie Williams #8050

1. From Mr Cook’s Papers NLA  ref. Gaol Calenders, Epiphany 1785 – Epiphany 1787; Order in Council No. 7, Page 31, No. 8, Page 32, PRO Assizes 2/25 Gloucester Records Office.

2. Ralph Clark’s Journal

3. Copy NSW Death Certificate Vol 46 No 2



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters