EMIGRATION to Australia

Liverpool Journal, February 16th, 1850

Female emigrants to Australia

The control of women on board ship must, of necessity, be almost entirely of a moral nature, any penal control being from the circumstances of the case, nearly inapplicable. At the same time the circumstances offer to those who are not restrained by principle of previous training peculiar temptations to misconduct their exaggeration – the want of regular employment – the lassitude produced by tropical heat etc – are all incentives more or less, to irregularity from these, or other causes, quarrels, bad language, insubordination, and immortality, have arisen in some of the ships sent out by the Emigration Commissioners, notwithstanding the most anxious care on other part in the selection of emigrants.

Last year the Commissioners sent out thirteen girls from the Marylebone Workhouse on the ELIZA, Those girls, one of whom was dismissed from the ship at Plymouth, so misconducted themselves that the Surgeon, writing after they had been to sea for six weeks, said:- “I cannot find words strong enough to give you an idea of all the trouble we had, still have, and are likely to have to the end of the voyage, with those women or rather fiends in human shape, from the Marylebone Workhouse.”

He described them as a nuisance to all on board – as resisting all control – as using the most disgusting language – as requiring the utmost exertion to prevent their communication with the sailors, and finally, as having exited the sailors to mutiny, such scenes take place even when the officers do their duty conscientiously, which is not always the case.

“It is impossible [says the Immigrant Board of Sydney, as stated in the report on emigration, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, July 1842], to convey a just idea of the gross abuses and infamous misconduct which occurred [on board the SOLOMON] owing to the ‘imbecility’ of the surgeon superintendent.

Unrestrained intercourse took place between the sailors and the females, and between certain officers and single females. Among these girls were twelve girls from a foundling institute in Dublin, one of whom – a very interesting girl too – was seduced by the chief officer, and died, in consequence of a miscarriage, before she could be landed from the vessel.

Findings on Surgeons

The CANTON, Surgeon pronounced not qualified for the office.

The EQUESTRIAN, Surgeon has not sufficient energy or activity.

The FAIRLIE, Surgeons manner is violent and grossly offensive.

The AGINCOURT, Surgeon is deficient in energy and has bad principles.

The CHARLOTTE JANE, Surgeon has bad habits, intoxication, it is undesirable that he should be employed again.

The EMPEROR, Surgeon allowed, great freedom of intercourse between the single females, the mates and the seamen.

The GENERAL HEWITT, Surgeon allowed, intimacies between some of the sailors and the single females, intercourse during the passage was not sufficiently prevented.

The CORNWALL, the Surgeon was young and inexperienced, but attentive to the performance of his duties. A formal complaint was made affecting the conduct of the mate of the ship, with reference to certain of the single females. The Superintendent reported that:- without doubt the accusation was not devoid of foundation, and that a certain degree of immorality must have prevailed on board.

The HYDERABAD, The duties of the Surgeon Superintendent were not performed in a satisfactory manner, and he should not be employed again.

The LADY PEEL, The Surgeon was totally unfit for his duties.

All these cases occurred [says Mr SIDNEY, in his letter on female emigration] in one twelvemonth. This out of 20 Superintendent Surgeons selected, 11 were reported by the Colonial Authorities as unfit for their duties.

Not less than 8 cases have occurred in which the single women have arrived with characters notoriously tainted on the passage, and in 2 cases under circumstances of a painful nature, the parties being young innocent girls. It is believed many cases of a similar delinquency have occurred but have been concealed from the Colonial Authorities.

The Irish orphan girls sent out from the workhouse as domestic servants have, it is true, obtained situations and in no place having remained unengaged for more than a few days.

It appears that in both, New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land, there now exist a considerable excess of males over females. A similar disproportion exists in Western Australia, and to a less extent in South Australia and New Zealand. But the three last colonies being, wholly peopled by voluntary emigrants, who will provide themselves in due season with wives, they will not take the females sent out by the committee. They must go principally to New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land. In New South Wales however the disproportion of the sexes is continually and rapidly decreasing.

In 1836 the number of males in the colony,55,359, females 21,557, a proportion of 5-2.

In 1841, males 87,298, females 43,558, a proportion of 4-2.

In 1846, males 112,573, females 74,840, a proportion of 3-2.

In the population were under 21 yrs is nearly equal, between 21-45 yrs the proportion of males to females is not quite 2-1, 45 yrs and above not quite 3-1.

The census for 1846 shows

Males under 21, 40,071

Females under 21, 39,779

Males 21-45 yrs, 59,009

Females 21-45 yrs, 30,315

Males over 45 yrs, 13,493

Females over 45 yrs, 4,746

Total males, 112,578, females, 74,840.

In the course of a very few years as the old convicts die off [and excepting in 1849, no additions have been made to it by transportation for several years past] the disproportion of the sexes will disappear.

One of the evils in the colonies which the emigration is to remedy is coming to an end while the committee are making their preparations many of the women they send out will come too late and they will find a home at Sidney or Van Dieman’s Land, more than wretched, and probably subsistence more difficult to be procured in London.

The report of an inquiry at Adelaide, into the conduct of the Captain, Surgeon and Officers of the INDIAN, emigrant ship, has just come to hand. The emigrants, 80 in number, stated that there were gross and palpable deficiency of provisions, wanton immorality, constant abuse, and that they were exposed to frequent threats during the whole voyage. The conduct of the Second Mate with some of the female emigrants was revolting.

Copyright 2002 / To date