British Women's Emigration
In the late 1800s and early 1900s there was a perceived problem of 'superfluous' unmarried women. Several organisations were created to encourage educated middle-class women to emigrate. This was primarily to British colonies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand or South Africa. There were branches throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The organisations provided practical help with travel arrangements, hostels and work.
All the female emigration societies' records were offered to The Women's Library by the Women's Migration & Overseas Appointments Society (previously the Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women) when it was being wound up in 1964. Typical records include minutes, annual reports, correspondence, legal and financial papers, pamphlets, scrapbooks and journals now held in the Printed Collection. Some operational papers regarding the Companies Acts and the Society's overseas properties were also preserved.
This month we highlight the archival descriptions for the records of these organisations. Please note: no registers or records of individual emigrants or sailings survive in these archives. There are also links to selected websites and a brief bibliography.
The Imperial Colonist image copyright ©
The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University.
Other images copyright © The Illustrated News Ltd at Mary Evans Picture Library. These are links to larger images and details.
- British Women's Emigration Association: founded in 1901; amalgamated with other organisations in 1919 to form the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women
- Colonial Intelligence League: founded in 1910 as the Committee of Colonial Intelligence for Educated Women; amalgamated with other organisations in 1919 to form the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women
- Female Middle Class Emigration Society: founded in 1862; the first party, which included social reformer Maria Rye (1829-1903), was sent out to New Zealand the same year.
- South African Colonisation Society: founded in 1902, the inheritor of the South African Expansion Scheme Committee established in 1899, and an offshoot of the United British Women's Emigration Association; amalgamated with other organisations in 1919 to form the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women.
- Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women: established as a response to the economic and social position of British women after the end of the First World War; created a junior branch in 1925. .
- Female Emigration Societies: series of essays written by The Fawcett Library in the 1970s [these require the free Adobe Acrobat reader] (The Women's Library website)
- Maria Rye's Emigration Home for Destitute Little Girls (University of Liverpool Special Collections & Archives website)
- Child Emigration and Liverpool and Emigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Merseyside Maritime Museum website)
- The rise of Victoria's empire: British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (Bristol)
- Immigration records factsheet (National Archives of Australia website)
- Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience (Library and Archives Canada)
Links are provided to records on Copac for these items. Copac is the free, web based national union catalogue, containing the holdings of many of the major university and National Libraries in UK and Ireland plus a number of special libraries. For more information about accessing items see the FAQs on the Copac website.
- Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (ed.) Woman's Mission: a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women (2002, originally published 1893). Records on Copac
- Julia Bush Edwardian Ladies and Imperial Power. Records on Copac
- Lisa Chilton Agents of Empire: British Female Migration to Canada and Australia, 1860s-1930 . Records on Copac
- Marjorie Kohli The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 . Records on Copac
- Clarissa Campbell Orr (ed.) Wollstonecraft's daughters: womanhood in England and France, 1780-1920 . Records on Copac
- Pamela Sharpe (ed.) Women, Gender and Labour Migration: Historical and Global Perspectives . Records on Copac
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