restricted access Versatile Offending: Criminal Careers of Female Prisoners in Australia, 1860–1920


The use of longitudinal data from the criminal records of a sample of 6,042 female prisoners in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Victoria reveals limitations in the traditional method of examining criminality within specific offense categories. Investigations devoted exclusively to particular categories of women’s offenses potentially obscures the extent to which women resorted to multiple forms of offending. Such versatile activity challenges conceptions of women as predominantly petty offenders by suggesting that some women were arrested for minor offenses because of their engagement in more serious crimes and their participation in criminal sub-cultures.