Records of the British Women's Emigration Association

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 1BWE
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      6 A boxes

Scope and Content

The archive consists of Minutes: UEEA finance committee, UBWEA council and South African Expansion Committee, British Women's Emigration Association (BWEA) council, information, factory scheme, hostel and advisory committee; Annual reports of UBWEA and BWEA; press cuttings books; correspondence and copy correspondence; BWEA papers for council meeting.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Women's Emigration Association (BWEA)(1901-1919) was founded in 1901. The effort to encourage educated middle class women to emigrate in an effort to relieve the pressures of population growth and the perceived problem of the number of 'superfluous' unmarried women, led to the foundation of several organisations to assist the latter group. In 1884, several former members of the Women's Emigration Society came together to form the United Englishwoman's Emigration Register, which would go on to become the United Englishwoman's Emigration Association in Feb 1884. Its aims were to emigrate women of good character, to ensure their safety during and after their travel and to keep in touch with them for some time after their arrival. In Nov 1885, Ellen Joyce and Mrs Adelaide Ross replaced Miss Louisa Hubbard at the head of the organisation. By 1888, the group began to work in co-operation with the Scotch Girl's Friendly Association and the Scottish YWCA, prompting a change of name. The following year the new United British Women's Emigration Association changed the original constitution, centralising what had been a loose grouping of independent workers and outlining their responsibilities, roles and relationships. Their expansion continued, from the establishment of Irish and Scottish branches in 1889 to one in Staffordshire and one for Wiltshire and Somerset that same year, while another was established in Bath in 1891. Homes for emigrants waiting to depart were created in Liverpool in 1887 and in London in 1893. The majority of emigrants which passed through them in the 1890s were destined for Canada, New Zealand or Australia, but towards the end of the century, the flow of emigrants to South Africa increased to such a degree that it became necessary to set up a South African Expansion Scheme Committee. This would go on to become the independent South African Colonisation Society. In 1901, the parent organisation dropped the 'united' element of its name and continued to expand in their own fields, opening a hostel at Kelowna in British Colombia in 1913. After the outbreak of the First World War the number of emigrants declined. In 1917, a Joint Council of Women's Emigration Societies was established to deal with the situation after the war and liaise with central government. This co-operation between the British Women's Emigration Association, the Colonial Intelligence League and the South African Colonisation Society finally resulted in their amalgamation into the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women in Dec 1919.

Access Information

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Please note some items at conservation

Acquisition Information

All the records in Strand 1 were offered to The Fawcett Library by the Women's Migration & Overseas Appointments Society when it was being wound up in 1964. Miss Vera Douie, Librarian of The Fawcett Library, appraised the records, selecting minute books, annual reports and a number of old journals. The few files selected for retention were concerned with the Companies Acts and the Society's overseas

properties. The Commonwealth Relations Office arranged for HM Stationery Office to dispose of confidential files. Other files not deemed of historical significance were destroyed through the same agency.

The records came to The Fawcett Library in Dec 1964 and 1BWE was catalogued Apr 1973.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Fragile: please handle with care

Related Material

The 'East End Emigration Fund' merged with the 'Emigration Sub-Committee, Charity Organisation', to form the 'British Dominions Emigration Society'- its archive is held at the British Library, Manuscript Dept.

The 'Charity Organisation Society' Minute Books and other records are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

'Church Colonial Land Society Limited' references to this are made in the Colonial Office Records, held at The National Archives and in the Companies House archives.

'Society For The Overseas Settlement Of British Women' references to this are made in the Companies House archives.

'South African Colonisation Society': When the South African Expansion Committee of the BWEA was discussing its future organisation and plans for South African emigration, Sir John Ardagh put forward some plans which were considered - see the Minute Books. See also Sir John Ardagh's Papers - The National Archives [old reference Public Record Office 30 / 40 Box 118]

Registrar Of Friendly Societies: See Annual Reports and the Commission papers 1871-1874.

Associated material: Papers collected by Susan Harris, Countesse of Malmsbury can be found at The National Archives (UK) Ref: 30/40 Box 118