Janet had given birth to a large number of children, of whom five died while young. She was living apart from her husband when John Dibden was born on 20 November 1887.
Janet gave the baby to Ellen Gardner, a baby farmer, to care for. However, Gardner did not give the baby proper food, starving him and allowing him to become filthy and emaciated. About mid-December the condition of the child was noticed by some outsiders and he was returned to his mother. She continued to neglect him, and John died on 24 December 1887 of starvation.
Dibden and Gardner were found guilty of manslaughter. Janet was sentenced to four years gaol and Ellen three years, served at Old Melbourne Gaol. While Janet was in gaol she penned the following poem:
THE BROKENHEARTED MOTHER'S RECITATION
My age is fifty five,
My children their mother have despised;
In this world alone.
No daughter to say,
Dear mother, do come home;
My mother, I love so dear,
I am your son, I wish you were here.
Janet Dibden expressed her feelings and described her life through her remarkable poems.
PROV, VPRS 516, Central Register of Female Prisoners, P0, Unit 10, p.94
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