Papers relating to Maria Rye's Emigration Home for Destitute Little Girls

Scope and Content

Papers relating to Maria Rye's Emigration Home for Destitute Little Girls, Avenue House, High Street, Peckham, comprising: Annual Reports and Statistics 1874-1894; reports and publicity 1869-1878; newspaper articles and lectures 1863-1903; Correspondence 1875-1893; photographs and engravings c. 1870s

Administrative / Biographical History

Maria Rye (1829-1903) founded the Female Middle Class Emigration Society in 1861 and was responsible for escorting parties of young women to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In 1869 she turned her attention to assisting young girls, usually aged between 5-12 years who were in the workhouses. She appealed for £1000 to finance such a scheme in a letter to The Times in March 1869. She was clearly successful as the first party of 76 children, many of whom were from Liverpool workhouse schools, sailed from Liverpool to Canada on the SS Hibernian six months later.

In the annual report of 1874 Maria, writing about the costs involved, said that the "expense of taking a child out of the gutters in London, and placing it in Canada ... may be roughly reckoned at D15 per head" (see D630 1/1)

The main focus of her efforts in England was the house in Peckham, which was opened on the 13 July 1872. Descriptions of the property, which was capable of housing up to 80 girls, mention its own laundry, school house, playground and a two acre garden. Most girls spent up to a year at Peckham before they were migrated to Canada via Liverpool and Quebec, from where they would travel by train to the reception home at Niagara, called 'Our Western Home'. This former jail and courthouse could accommodate up to 120 children.

In 1874 the Local Government Board commissioned Andrew Doyle, one of its senior inspectors, to report back on all aspects relating to the emigration of workhouse children to Canada, with particular concern to the schemes operated by Maria Rye and Anne Macpherson. Doyle's report was so critical of both the policy and the practice, especially regarding Maria Rye's scheme that the Local Government Board stopped the emigration of children from workhouses in March 1875, a decision that forced Maria Rye to effectively suspend activities for two years.

Maria was assisted in her work by her sister Miss Bessie Rye and her secretary Miss Elizabeth Stills. After a serious illness in 1895 Maria Rye retired, passing the management of the organisation onto the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society.

Emigration through the scheme ceased in July 1915 when the Home closed.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers.

Acquisition Information

Peter Rye, (Great-nephew of Maria Rye) Brampton nr Beccles, Suffolk per NRA; 24 Jun 1995, 15 May 1995  and June 1997.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the reading room.

Archivist's Note

The original list was revised by Simon Wilson in July 1997, this finding aid was created by Roy Lumb in August 2006

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request.

Custodial History

These surviving papers were amongst those collected by her nephew Arthur Rye during the 1950s for a proposed biography of Maria Rye which was never completed.

Related Material

Despite numerous references to her detailed record keeping and to a collection of over 500 photographs (figure quoted in 1876, see D630 3/2) it is believed that the records were also transferred to the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society although their current whereabouts is unknown.

D801 Papers relating to Maria Rye and her work in Canada


Diamond, MarionEmigration and empire : the life of Maria S. RyeNew York : Garland Pub, 1999 .