I recently read the classic Moll Flanders by Daniel DeFoe. It was an eyeopener to how harsh punishment was for theft in previous centuries. Crimes that are these days considered minor were capital offenses back then. To have become a convict, for al its hardships would have been a reprieve from the noose.
Though often portrayed as unskilled and illiterate, convict women brought over 200 trades with them, and had literacy levels very similar to those of English and Irish immigrant women. Occupations included working as dairymaids, weavers, lace-makers, seamstresses, teachers and fishing-net makers. In the area of shoes alone, the trades included bootmaker, bootbinder, boot closer and boot corder.