Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Arts

First Supervisor

Dr Jan Ryan


Published scholarly works on female criminal activity are limited both by their meagreness and lack of supporting empirical basis, being grounded in stereotypes and assumptions. Accurate studies based on the collection and analysis of data are required to address this paucity and to provide an historical for contemporary studies. It is, however, an accepted fact that historically women commit significantly less crimes than men and their criminal activity is generally of a far less violent nature. However, when women do physically harm others, the act most often involves family members and utilises domestic tools in the commission of the crimes. It has been mooted that women were controlled by their domestic roles along with the constraints placed upon them by society in the past, and as these constraints loosened, criminal activity by women would approach that of men. An examination of Perth Supreme Court records between 1890 and 1914; and media reports of the crimes, is expected to elicit information which should illuminate judicial and patriarchal attitudes towards women in the period and address the issues of why women committed crimes, what types of crimes they committed and how they were judged and punished. The examination of these crimes will be based on an attempt to determine whether women were treated harshly or leniently by the judicial system, in order to provide empirical support for the basis of criminological theories.

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