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Government-assisted migration of single women from Britain to Australia 1860 - 1900

Gothard, Janice (1991) Government-assisted migration of single women from Britain to Australia 1860 - 1900. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Working-class female migration in the latter half of the nineteenth century was organised by Australian colonial governments to meet the virtually unceasing demand of colonists for paid domestic labour. Earlier studies of migration to Australia have frequently dismissed assisted female migration as designed to do little more than introduce single women as wives, similarly reducing the motives of immigrant women to a search for husbands. This thesis argues that single female migration, like 0U:1er forms of assisted migration in nineteenth century colonial contexts, was a process of introducing labour.

From the mid-nineteenth century all Australian colonial governments intermittently offered reduced and free passages to single British working-class women to encourage them to migrate. Each colony pursued these ends independently, frequently in competition with its colonial neighbours. This thesis undertakes an extensive comparative analysis of the female migration policies pursued by the five mainland colonies from 1860 to 1900.

The migration process itself - that is, the implementation of migration policy - was affected by several interest groups other than colonial governments. The colonists, particularly middle-class women who were the primary employers of immigrant domestic servants, demanded the introduction of a labour supply they deemed acceptable in terms of both employment experience and morality. The British government was also involved in the selection and despatch of British emigrants to the colonies until the early 1870s, and frequently imposed its own view of colonial society on its selection practices. One further group, middle-class women in Britain, attempted to give priority to the interests of immigrant women themselves. Working in concert with both middle-class colonial women and with colonial governments, these women, through women's emigration societies, were influential in improving the facilities made available to women in transit and after arrival in the colonies.

The migration process is also examined as a process of class- and gender-based control exercised over single working-class women. More than any other category of migrants, women migrants were subjected to a regime of 'protection'. Such protection resulted from the particular intention behind single female migration programmes: introducing women to undertake paid work in private homes rather than public workplaces. Protection thus became a means of controlling paid domestic workers in order to 'protect' colonial homes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Supervisor(s): Bolton, Geoffrey and Layman, Lenore
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