The National Archives holds approximately 5100 unique prison licence files for female prisoners for the years 1853 to 1887. Licences were issued to prisoners coming to the end of their sentence, giving them permission to leave early provided they did not re-offend, and a copy was added to their prison file.
These files can also include a photograph of the prisoner and background information on the woman and her crimes.
Taken as a whole, these files serve to highlight the lives of working class women, the difficulties they faced in their daily lives, and the range of crimes typically committed during this period.
One such file concerns Sophia Todd who was sentenced at Liverpool Assizes in 1877 for the murder of a baby two years earlier.