Convict Maids destroys the myth that the female convicts transported from Britain and Ireland to New South Wales between 1826 and 1840 were mainly prostitutes, professional criminals and the 'sweepings of the gaols'. Deborah Oxley argues that in fact these women helped put the colony on its feet. Oxley shows that the women were generally first offenders, transported for minor offences. They were skilled, literate, young and healthy - qualities exploited by the new colony, which needed them both in the labour market and as wives and mothers. This is the first major study to analyse the backgrounds of female convicts against the general labour force. It also compares the legal systems and economies of Britain and Ireland, placing the women's crimes in context. Convict Maids draws on historical, economic and feminist theory, and is impressive for its extensive and original research.