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Female Emigrants

emigration and free selection



Emigration and Transportation, 1848
If Her Majesty’s Government be really desirous of seeing a well conducted community spring up in these Colonies, the social wants of the people must be considered- If the paternal Government wishes to entitle itself to that honoured appellation, ii must look to the materials it may send as a nucleus tor the formation of a good and great people. For all the clergy you can despatch, ail the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without what a gentleman in [Australia] very appropriately called ‘God’s police’ógood and virtuous women.


The Emigrant’s Guide to Australia, 1854
Tents. – All letters from the colony speak of these being an indispensable article of an emigrant’s outfit. Boxes must be made small, that a man may be able to carry them; but a barrel is a better packing-case, as then a man may roll it.

Testimonials.– It is found of great service, as to the position of emigrants in the colony. To take out with them not only their registrations of birth and marriage-certificates, but testimonials of character from their spiritual pastors, magistrates, corporation-officers, physicians, gentry, or known respectable persons in business.

Extras .- Those who have money to spare may take with them a few pounds of patent flour, a pound of arrowroot, some rice, tea, and sugar, and a jar of pickles Those who have children should take preserved broths and milk.


The Emigrant’s Guide 1829
A man ought to consider, that women, and especially women with families, have been long bound to their homes; to their neighbour hood; to their small circles; most frequently much in the company of their mothers, sisters, and other relations; and that, to tear themselves from all these, and to be placed amongst strangers, and that, too, with the probability, and almost the certainty, of never seeing their circle of relations and friends again; and to begin their departure on the wide ocean, the dangers of which are proverbial, and perfectly terrific to female minds, for a woman to do all this, without the greatest reluctance, is too much for any reasonable and just man to expect; yet, if the necessity arise, it is still his duty towards his children, and even towards the wife herself, to perse- were in the effecting of his object . – –


A Journey Across the Desert, 1845
The heat of the cabins is not to be described; ours is suffocating. We have two stern windows, but they are of little use, as, the wind being constantly ahead of us, we can get no (fresh air], and where there ought to he a side-porthole is a large looking glass, which only reflects one’s dirt and discomfort. But I could endure all this, were it not for the swarm of cockroaches that infest us; they almost drive me out of my senses. The other day sixty were killed in our own cabin, and we might have killed as many more; they are very large, about two inches and a half long, and run about your pillows and sheets in a most disgusting manner. In order to guard myself against them, I am obliged to sleep with a great muslin veil over my face, which adds not a little to the heat and suffocation. Rats are very numerous. One night Mr Welby Jackson, one of the passengers, was asleep on the cuddy table, and was woken up by a huge monster running down one of the punkah ropes into his shirt, and it was a long lime before he could dispossess himself of his unwelcome visitor. The captain keep’s a very good table, and has an excellent cook.


Work and Wages; or, the Penny Emigrant’s Guide 1855
Choose a ship that is well ventilatedóthat is to say, go in a ship That has one sleeping deck for passengers rather than two; be Careful that you cannot only walk upright on this deck, but that it is at least seven feet from the deck above – – . with a proper current of air below. See that the ship has high bulwarks (wooden walls), at least six feel high, so as to prevent passengers from being drenched every time they come on deck, if you have a family choose a ship, if possible, which has separate water closets for males and females , and take with you some chloride of lime got from a chemist, and throw a little into the closet now and then, to stop bad smells.

The weak among my readers – and I would add the very poor but they cannot afford to choose – should be careful, if possible, to select a ship in which they are not required to cook for themselves. To the richer passengers who can bribe the cooks with half a crown now and then, to pretty women who can coax them with their smiles, or to strong men who can elbow their way with their broad shoulders, such advice is not necessary, as they can have access to the crowded cookhouse any time, and any number of times daily; but the others often have to wait tor hours in the wet, or even all day, to cook a single meal..,


The Emigrant in Australia, 1853
For the wife (bound for ‘the diggings”): Three cotton dresses, one pair Stays, four petticoats, sixteen chemises, two flannel petticoats, twelve pairs cotton stockings, four pair-, black worsted ditto, six night dresses and caps. six pocket handkerchiefs, four handkerchiefs for the neck, six caps, two bonnets, cloak and shawl, one pair boors, two pair shoes, and eight towels . . . The family will also require a mattress and bolster, one pair blankets, one coverlet, six pairs cotton sheets, two or three tablecloths, six pounds yellow soap, three pounds of marine soap, metal wash-hand basin, knives and forks, one quart tin hook pot, one coffee pot, comb and brush, besides a supply of string, sewing materials, tape, buttons, &c .. .

It will always be desirable that the wife makes as many of her clothes as possible on board ship, as the occupation serves to pass many an otherwise idle, heavy hour.

Bulky furniture would be a costly incumbrance to anyone proceeding beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the shore. A portable iron bedstead, however, is worth taking. (And a tent.)


Journal From Gravesend to Sydney, 1853
I must now give you some description of our hut. In the first place it has two rooms that occupy the space of your washhouse. Of these rooms have a window, only think three panes across and two high. The bedroom you must understand has been in the wars for three squares out of the six have got board in them instead of glass which is not quite so transparent. The sitting room has two boarded up which of course outside in particular gives the place a very respectable appearance – Wood being rather a scarce article here they cannot afford to board the rooms. Our bedroom has one of Nature’s own making the mother earth.

Now I hope you will not laugh for as Thomas used to say, you might be took to yourself, but of all the bedsteads you ever saw I warrant you will never come across one to match ours. It is one of our own contriving and erecting and a four post too. Thomas went out and dug up four old clumsy stakes belonging to a fence. He brought them home; he then dug four great holes in the bedroom. We put a post in each and then rammed the dirt in round them. The next thing to be thought of was the side and foot pieces. We went and fetched some more of the poor old fence and nailed them to the posts but we had to hunt for all our nails before we could do that even. We then nailed a rough piece of board across for the head-board.

The next consideration was how to contrive a bottom. So after a good deal of scheming Thomas at last hit upon a plan, He nailed three bars of wood across and then fetched a large sheet of bark and laid [it] upon them which answers admirably and we sleep as sound upon a mattress on a sheet of bark as thousands do upon beds of down. In our sitting room we have a few odd pieces of board laid down of all sizes und shapes. Our fire we have upon a hearth. The walls of our hut are slabs of wood just as they have been split down in the rough, not even a splinter planed off them.

We can see daylight through every one. They have had mud plastered in between them but a great deal of it has dropped out so you see our rooms are very airy. The roof and chimney are made of bark pub together in a sort of form – a patch here and a patch there as if the wind had blown them together. Our door, for we have only one, opens with a bobbin. We have no water closet – that is a luxury they think folks can do without. Our water we have to fetch half a mile from the river.


Journal from Gravesend to Sydney 1853
A gentleman returned (to the ship) this evening bringing us information worth receiving. He had met a person in the city who enquired of him if we had a miller on board among our passengers, as he knew a party very much in want of one as they were scarce folks in Sydney. He told him he believed there was one and only one on board- He said he should feel very much obliged if he would send him. His employer would give him one hundred and five pounds a year, with rations sufficient for himself and wife and likewise a house to live in. The news seemed really too good to be true. I could hardly bring my mind to believe it. Fortune, actually swimming out of Sydney to meet us. I could not sleep a wink all night for thinking. It appeared like a dream, I was unable to interpret much less believe. Thursday October 27th a lovely day. Thomas started first thing this morning in quest of his new situation. I spent a very anxious day as to the upshot of this unlooked for affair.

A gentleman returned about tea time with a message from Thomas to say that he could not return until the following morning as he had go to Parramatta, sixteen miles out of Sydney to be engaged and would not be able to get any conveyance back that evening.

Friday, October z8th a most exquisite day, my anxiety seems increased twofold. This morning Thomas returned about six in morning bringing intelligence that he was engaged at the rate of one hundred and four pounds a year with board, lodging and firing found us. The place intended for our future home is two hundred miles from Sydney named Yass. a station half way to the Ovens diggings. We are to leave Sydney tomorrow by the Mai! Coach which starts at five in the morning, the fare is seven guineas each without luggage. We leave that behind to be sent by the bullock drays after us, which takes a month and sometimes three to reach their destination. Mr Hardy, for that is our employer’s name, has agreed to pay our expenses by the mail, the luggage we have to pay for ourselves. I feel very timid at the thoughts of going up the country such a distance particularly there having been a most brutal murder just committed there which you have doubtless heard of in the papers. The man now lies in Goulburn Jail awaiting his trial. However, there was no alternative so (I) made up my mind to it in the best way I could.


A Lady’s Visit to the Gold Diggings, 1853
Night at the diggings is the characteristic time’ murder here -murder thereórevolvers crackingóblunderbusses bombing- rifles going offóbails whistling – one’ man groaning with a broken legóanother shouting because he couldn’t find the way to his hole and a third equally vociferous because he has tumbled into one – this man swearingóanother praying ñ a party of bacchanals chanting various ditties to different time and tune, or rather minus both. Here is one man grumbling because he has brought his wife with him, another ditto because he has left his behind, or sold her for an ounce of gold or a bottle of rum. Donny-brook Fair is not to be compared to an evening at Bendigo – -.

In some tents the soft influence of our sex is pleasingly apparent: the tins are as bright as silver, there are sheets as well as blankets on the beds, and perhaps a clean counterpane, with the addition of a dry sack or piece of carpet on the ground; whilst the pet cockatoo, chained to a perch, makes noise enough to keep the ‘missus’ from feeling lonely when the good man is at work- Sometimes a wife is at first rather a nuisance; women gel scared and frightened, then cross, and commence a ‘blow up’ with their husbands; but all their railing generally ends in their quietly settling down to this rough and primitive style of living, if not without a murmur, at least to all appearance with the determination to laugh and bear it. And although rough in their manners, and not over select in their address, the digger seldom wilfully injures a woman.

The stores at the diggings are large tents generally square or oblong and everything required by a digger can be obtained for money, from sugar-candy to potted anchovies, from East India pickles to Bass’s pale ale; from ankle jack boots to a pair of stays; from a baby’s cap to a cradle; and even apparatus for mining, from a pick to a needle. But the confusion ñ the din – the medleyówhat a scene for a shop walker! Here lies a pair of herrings dripping into a bag of sugar, or a box of raisins; there a gay-looking bundle of ribbons beneath two tumblers, and a half- finished bottle of ale. Cheese and butter, bread and yellow soap, pork and currants, saddles and frocks, wide-awakes and blue serge shirts, green veils and shovels, bath linen and tallow candles, are all heaped indiscriminately together, added to which, there are children bawling, men swearing, store-keeper sulky, and last, not least, women’s tongues going nineteen to the dozen.


A Lady’s Visit to the Gold Diggings. 1853
To those of my own sex who desire to emigrate to Australia, I say do so by all means, if you can go under suitable protection, possess good health, are not fastidious or ‘fine ladylike’, can milk cows, churn butter, cook a good damper, and mix a pudding. The worst risk you run is that of getting married, and finding yourself treated with twenty times the respect and consideration you may meet with in England. Here (as far as number goes) women beat the ‘lords of creation,’ in Australia it is the reverse, and there we may be pretty sure of having our own way.

Sidney’s Emigrant’s Journal , 1848

There is an unlimited demand for wives of all ranks, from the shepherd to the gentleman squatter, with his 1,000 head of cattle, and 20,000 sheep. The Colonists, as a body, whether emigrants or native born, make good husbands, kind, indulgent, and generous. They are all rather rough in their language to each other, but no one ever heard of a Bushman beating his wife. In the towns there is as much gaiety as in England. Rather more.

The Bush huts have not generally been very comfortable: but there is no reason why they should not be as well built and furnished as in English farm houses. Young widows and orphans of small means will find themselves in reality much safer in an Australian town than in any of the great towns of Europe, better protected, and with better prospects. Of course some caution is necessary before accepting the first offers made, but there is very little difficulty in finding out an Australian settler’s character. There are obvious advantages in two or more ladies joining to make a party for the sea-voyage, besides reasons of economy. There can be no more impropriety in going to Australia than to India for the same purpose.

Adelaide is at present the best port for young ladies, as there is a committee of ladies there who receive and protect female emigrants.

For Governesses, there is a moderate demand. We should only recommend those to think of emigration who are not comfortable here. Every lady thinking of emigrating should know how to bake, boil, roast, wash, and iron, and then although she may not have to do these things, she will feel independent.

For Domestic and Farm-servants the demand is unlimited, and will so continue for many years, as a good sober cook, housemaid or nurse, is worth any wages, and may always have a house of her own within twelve months. A clever maid-servant is sure to better her position by emigrating to Australia, and will frequently save part of the passage-money by attending on one of the lady passengers.

Never stand out for high wages at first. Get a house over your head, and then change if you can for the better.

Country girls, Irish and others, not able to become domestic servants, would make excellent shepherdesses. All dry flocks, that is, not breeding ewes, will be- under the charge of women, when- ever an equality of sexes has been produced by copious female emigration.