This beautiful hand-tinted ambrotype is a portrait of Mary Hyde and is a part of the 'Simeon Lord- Mary Hyde' collection of early colonial artefacts. Simeon Lord was a convict who went on to earn his freedom and become one of Sydney's pre-eminent businessmen. Mary Hyde was his wife but marriage to this important figure in Sydney's history was not Mary's sole claim to fame, as her life was equally remarkable, particularly given the restriction upon women in this period. She was born Mary Hyde, in England in 1779, and at the age of 17 was convicted of stealing clothing and was transported to Sydney in 1798, two years later.
Like the other 95 female convicts on the Brittania II, Mary was auctioned to be a servant, wife or hut-keeper for the males of the colony. In 1798 she met and started a relationship with a ship's officer, John Black, and gave birth to two of his children. She raised both children almost exclusively by herself as her husband was away for long periods before he eventually died on a voyage back from India, in 1802. His death was not officially acknowledged until 1804 and Mary continued on in the house and shop on the land leased in Black's name.
Sometime around 1805 Mary started a new relationship with Simeon Lord, an ex-convict and former business associate of John Black. Lord became step-father to Mary's two children and Mary became mother to a young girl Lord had adopted. In 1806 Mary bore the first of 10 children to Lord and together they earned enough to be counted among the richest in the colony. In 1814 their partnership became legal when Mary and Simeon were married at St Phillip's Church in Sydney. In the 1820s the family moved to 'Banks House' in the Sydney suburb of Botany near the site of their woollen factory.
In 1840 Simeon Lord died and under the terms of the will Mary, a woman, was made executor of the estate making Mary one of the wealthiest women in the colony. She continued to manage Lord's affairs after his death and employed many people in the Botany factory before it was closed by the flooding of her land as a part of the Sydney Water Board's development of the area. Mary took them to court to get compensation and four years later won the case and was eventually awarded over £15,000, a sum measured in the millions by today's standards.
Mary died in December 1864, leaving her estate to all her children in an attempt to ensure the daughters were treated equally and could manage their inheritance in their own right. Unfortunately this was not possible in the eyes of the law and the money passed into the hands of male heirs and husbands.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009
Mary Hyde, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Hyde
D. R. Hainsworth, 'Lord, Simeon (1771 - 1840)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 128-31, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020114b.htm