Ellen J was the middle of three daughters, brought up in Gloucestershire in the second half of the 19th century.
Her childhood appears to have been relatively stable, but as an adult she struggled to find work and raise herself from poverty. She appears to have worked as a charwoman when she could find the employment, but spent periods living in the workhouse when work was scarce.
At the age of 43 she was charged with stealing a gold broach, probably from an employer. She was found guilty, and sentenced to 21 days hard labour in jail. It is unknown what form this labour took, but it probably would have been a treadmill or crank, or something equally unconstructive.
On release, she continues to work as a charwoman and spends periods in and out of the workhouse as before.
Seven years later, however, she was again brought before the court – this time for being drunk and disorderly. She was given the choice of a fine of five shillings and threepence, or seven further days hard labour. Her finances clearly being the way they were, it comes as no surprise that she served the sentence.
On release, she returned to the workhouse and occasional charring work. She never married, and died single aged 68.