The definition of the word ‘bushranger’ was first referred to an escaped convict who ‘ranged the bush’ for extended periods. The first reference was to escaped convict Matthew Corbett or Corbin in June 1788. These escaped convicts were called ‘bolters’. The word ‘bushranger’ as we understand it today was first used for a huge West Indian Negro, who came with the First Fleet in January 1788, named John ‘Black’ Caesar who escaped in 1790. He stole food and clothing and was sometimes joined by other convicts. Eventually he was killed at a place called Liberty Plains, near modern day Strathfield, Sydney, for the reward of five gallons of rum.
Most bushrangers were shot or hanged, although many were gaoled. Some of them were released in 1874 in an amnesty. Most of the bushrangers returned to their old haunts and some of them published the stories of their bushranging days. They all seemed to agree that “it was not the exciting life that some people thought it was”.
By the late 1840s bushranging had almost died out, but the gold rushes brought an influx of people and wealth. They were easy targets for bushrangers in the wide-spread fields with almost no protection from the police force.
There were three women who were considered to be bushrangers. They were Mary Ann Bugg, who was Frederick “Thunderbolt” Ward’s wife; Black Mary, the girlfriend of Michael Howe, a notorious Tasmanian bushranger; and Mary Williams, who was an active bushranger in Tasmania in the mid 1830s.