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Pity the poor immigrant: Assisted single female migration to colonial Australia

By J. Gothard


In this examination of women as 'poor' immigrants a close focus is applied to a particular category of female immigrant, namely the single British women who received government or private assistance to migrate. Eric Richards has suggested that the availability of government assistance led to the emigration to Australia of some of the very poorest people in British society. In considering poverty amongst single female emigrants this paper examines two types of schemes which existed in the second half of the nineteenth century, specifically designed to introduce single women to the Australian colonies. The first type, which operated primarily in the 1850s, was initiated by British philanthropists and British government authorities expressly to relieve poverty in Britain. Some of these programmes in the 1860s and 1880s were also designed to relieve poverty amongst middle-class women; most however were directed at working-class poverty. Secondly this paper examines some aspects of government assistance schemes organised by the colonial governments, which introduced the largest number of assisted female immigrants. It is far more difficult to assess the level of poverty of this second group of women since much of the evidence is impressionistic and fragmentary, and serves rather to emphasise the heterogeneity of immigrant groups. However the evidence suggests that the chance to escape poverty was a factor influencing the decision to migrate at least for some women

Publisher: Research School of Social Sciences. Australian National University
Year: 1991
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Provided by: Research Repository
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