History-making Friendships, author Deborah Swiss guest blog

Friendship Deborah SwissFunny … we start out as just FRIENDS. Who knows when we’ll form ‘history-making friendships?’

The simple meeting of women can lead to so many things. Friendships can build and bonds can form that support us through life changes and challenges. Relationships where we ‘borrow’ each other’s strength when we can’t make it alone – like in battles with cancer or overwhelming obstacles. We see each other through the best and the worst of times. Little do we know it, but we’re making our own ‘history-making’ friendships.

Meet Deborah Swiss. She’s been blessed with those friends – who have been at her side during her best and worst times. And she’s studied the amazing friendships that are the basis of her riveting book: The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women. We’ll talk with Deborah on Friday, April 15th at 2-2:30pm ET on BlogTalkRadio.com/Girlfriendology about this fascinating story of friendships who survived travels around the world to a new, uncertain location, along with the fear and stress of being helpless and who leaned on each other to make a new life for themselves and a country. (Honestly FASCINATING! Come listen in on Friday!)

History-Making Friendships

By Deborah Swiss, Author, The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women

Over the course of six years, I stepped back in time, nearly two hundred years, and had the pleasure of being introduced to three strong, feisty women who dared to survive and thrive in spite of unimaginable stress and challenge. Ordinary women caught up in extraordinary circumstances relied only on their strength, resiliency, and one another. What started as a straight history book, quickly turned into the biographies of three exceptional women and the incredible journey that forged unbreakable bonds between them.

In the nineteenth century, 25,000 women were uprooted from their homes and transported in chains from Great Britain to Australia to serve as “tamers and breeders”. The majority had been arrested for petty theft, for pilfering food and clothing, the only means for many poor women to survive other than prostitution. Confronted with seven to ten years imprisonment and exiled for life, what motivated these women to endure and to hold onto their spirit, which could not be extinguished by their oppressors? In many cases, it was simply the support of a friend. After serving punishments that far exceeded the scope of their crimes, those more sinned against than sinning forged a fresh start, transforming desperation and injustice into love and redemption. They became pioneer heroines through sheer force of will, fortified by true-blue mates, and helped found a society that led the world in women’s rights.

For most, the journey began in one of the British Empire’s unforgiving slums. Glasgow street orphans Agnes McMillan, age 14, and surrogate big sister and protector, Janet Houston, age 15, were typical. Their unbreakable bond fueled one another’s resolve to live another day as they were transported together to “lands beyond the sea” for pilfering warm stockings in the middle of winter. Huddled together below deck during the treacherous four-month ship journey to Van Diemen’s Land (present-day Tasmania and Australia’s southernmost island state), this rag-tag sisterhood of sorrow dared to be beautiful, tearing pages from Bibles (that most couldn’t read) to make curling papers for their hair. Once in Van Diemen’s Land, known friends were purposely separated. Even though Agnes and Janet were apart for most of their sentence, the two determined lasses figured out a way to stay in touch, meeting at the town water pump from which they hauled water for their masters. Relying on the strength of their friendship, they found hope where none had the right to exist and went on to become loving mothers and grandmothers once freed.

In the time it took to research and write The Tin Ticket, I sadly lost three family members, but I found inspiration every day in the strength and remarkable survival of Agnes McMillan and Janet Houston. I, too, have been blessed with true-blue mates who’ve seen me through the best and the worst of times. It’s a gift that crosses continents and centuries. The power of our friendships to pull us through struggle, change, and challenge, igniting new-found hope at just the right moment, is truly a reason for celebration.


  • Pay it forward. Extend a helping hand to someone you don’t know.
  • Discover friendship in unlikely places and unlikely circumstances.
  • Team up and double your strength for whatever life brings your way.
  • Dare to dream. Your friends will cheer you on.
  • Treasure your girlfriends. They’re more valuable than gold.

Deborah Swiss is the author of The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women and three other non-fiction books. The Tin Ticket, her latest book, explores the forgotten history of three remarkable survivors who were among the 25,000 women transported as “tamers and breeders” to Australian colonies in the early nineteenth century, many with their young children in tow. Two years ago, Deborah traveled the convict trail with the great-granddaughters of the women whose stories she tells. Check out her site and discussion questions for book clubs interested in reading The Tin Ticket.

Join us on Friday, April 15th at 2-2:30pm ET on BlogTalkRadio.com/Girlfriendology about this fascinating story of friendships and the amazing experience Deborah lived while learning about these girlfriends and their heroic journey.

How are you and your girlfriends making history? Share and inspire!


  1. Kaye says

    As a descendant of Janet Houston I can honestly say that Deborah has brought my great,great grandmother back to life for me.She has done a wonderful job of researching these women’s lives as they travelled thousands of miles from their homes in Scotland to Tasmanias shores.Her book The Tin Ticket is absolutley wonderful.Thank you Deborah. Kaye Williams


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