Records of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of the records of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society (FMCES): Annual reports: May-Oct 1862, Nov 1862-Jul 1872, Jan 1880-Dec 1882, Jan 1883-Dec 1885; correspondence (in the form of letter-books); pamphlets.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Female Middle Class Emigration Society (1862-1908) was founded in 1862. The population explosion in England during the first half of the nineteenth century led government policy to encourage large scale emigration, while simultaneous concerns over the number of 'superfluous', unmarried women led to projects to stimulate female emigration. At the Social Sciences conference of 1860, Bessie Parkes advocated emigration as a solution to the population. This was also the belief and advice of Miss Maria S Rye after her experiences in the Society for Promoting Employment of Women, when she was deluged with applicants for a limited number of posts. She herself helped twenty-two women emigrate before attending the 1861 Social Sciences conference, when she appealed for help in establishing a new society to these ends. The Female Middle Class Emigration Society (FMCES) was therefore founded in May 1862 at 12 Portugal Street by a group which included Maria Rye, Jane E. Lewin, Emily Faithfull and Elizabeth (Bessie) Rayner Parkes, with the fund-raising assistance of Barbara Bodichon and with Lord Shaftsbury as its first president. Its stated aims were to assist middle class women who did not benefit from the government sponsorship for which working class women were eligible. Financed by public subscription and private donation, the society aimed to provide interest-free loans to enable educated women to emigrate. In addition, it established contacts at both departure and arrival points (mainly colonial ports). The first party, which included Maria Rye, was sent out to New Zealand in the autumn of 1862. At this point, Jane Lewin took over as Secretary, running the organisation from Sep 1862. Difficulties arose when it became clear that employers wanted working class domestics rather than middle-class governess and Rye, on her return in 1865, left to work with the emigrating working class with a particular interest in children's emigration. Lewin continued to concentrate on recruiting educators. In 1872, a further appeal for financial help was issued as the restricted funds which the society had at its disposal were limiting the number of emigrants being sent abroad. Lewin retired as secretary in 1881 to be replaced by Miss Strongitharm. The Female Middle Class Emigration Society was never a wealthy organisation and from 1884 to 1886 the funds were administered by the Colonial Emigration Society (CES) under Miss Julia Blake, its Secretary. The FMES was officially absorbed into the CES in 1886. In 1892 arrangements were made for the United British Women's Emigration Association to administer the loan fund. In 1908 Miss Lewin retired, and the Female Middle Class Emigration Society's later history is bound up with the British Women's Emigration Association.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

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 were catalogued in Mar 1973.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue. Also 1FME/2/1-2 (letterbooks) are indexed

Alternative Form Available

In 1963 a microfilm copy of the minutes (1FME) was made for the National Library of Australia. Unfortunately no copy is held at The Women's Library.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Fragile: please handle with care

Related Material

The Women's Library holds the following records in Strand 1:

1BWE British Women's Emigration Association

1CIL Colonial Intelligence League

1FME Female Middle Class Emigration Society

1SAX South African Colonisation Society

1SOS Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women

Also of relevance at The Women's Library are:

4TAS Travellers Aid Society

5GFS Girls Friendly Society

See also TWL Autograph letter Collection 9/, where there are several letters from Maria Rye to Madame Bodichon regarding the work of the Society. Also letters indicating the method of financing Miss Rye's Australasian visit. Also at TWL in 1/NWE there is a scrapbook of press cuttings (includes letters from New South Wales 'Western Independent' 20 Dec 1882; New Zealand 'The Rangitikei Advocate' 18 Nov 1882; New Zealand 'Southland Times' 20 Jan 1883 - 4pp leaflet in Scrapbook 1, Box FL022).

Related material elsewhere includes: British Library Maria Rye Letters, Add Mss 45799 ff.178-207.

Bibliography

Book chapter '[Letters from emigrants.]', in United British Women's Emigration Association. Report, United British Women's Emigration Association, 1894, pp. 19-28. [ Details ] Langfield, Mechele, 'A chance to bloom : Female migration and salvationists in Australia and Canada, 1890s to 1939', Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 17, No. 39 November, 2002, pp. 287-303. [ Details ] Spensky, Martine, 'British Women's Emigration at the Turn of the Last Century - An alternative "citizenship"?', in Britain in a Migrant World : European Network for British Area Studies (ENBAS), European Network for British Area Studies, 26-28 Apr 2001. [ Details ]