Mary Reibey is the face on our $20 note but do you know anything about her?
Mary Haydock (1777-1855) was convicted of stealing a horse at the age of 13 and transported to Australia in 1791, for seven years. When arrested she was using the alias of James Burrows and it was not until her trial that her gender was discovered. After arriving in Australia she went into domestic service. She met her future husband, Sydney Thomas Reibey, who worked for the East India Co., whilst being transported. Reibey returned to Sydney in 1794 and the two were married and developed a thriving trading business. With her husband’s death in 1811, and having seven children to care for, Mary took over her husband’s business affairs.
Mary was an astute business woman who traded with the Americans, Indians and Chinese. She owned ships, commercial premises and was a hotel keeper. She was a philanthropist who was involved with charity, educational facilities and the Church. Considering the role of women in this era was one of limited social interaction, it would seem Mary was genuinely progressive. She was widely respected and lauded for her success as a businesswoman.