The Female Emigration Society – Article 3

This benevolent society came about in response to the plight of the needlewomen of London and was supported by Caroline Chisholm, Sidney Herbert and Lord Ashley amongst others.

We have transcribed eight corresponding articles that were published in The Morning Chronicle in connection with the “Labour and the Poor” letters which you can find below. Each article has links to the other articles at the top and bottom of the page.

The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, April 4, 1850.


The second party of Female Emigrants sent out under the auspices of Mr. Sidney Herbert’s society, took their departure from London yesterday, and joined the barque Tory, in which they are to proceed, at Gravesend. The ship selected in the first instance—the Oriental—being prevented by circumstances from sailing, a number of private emigrants who had taken their passage on board her were transferred to another vessel; but the committee of the Female Emigration Fund determined to despatch their protégées—bound, in the present instance, for Adelaide—on board the Tory, a snug and compact little barque of about 480 tons register.

It may not be out of place here, before describing the incidents of the embarkation, to give some idea of the machinery by means of which the Female Emigration Society is now accomplishing its object. Five distinct committees have been formed, presided over by clergymen, and to these two others will shortly be added. Each applicant for a free passage applies in the first instance to her own District Committee, by whom she is supplied with a paper containing certain queries to be answered, and specifying the nature of certain certificates to be obtained. The queries are designed to elicit full information respecting the applicant—her age, educational condition, family circumstances, employment, recent earnings, means (if any), and reasons why she wishes to emigrate. The certificates are two—one of them as to moral and general character, signed by two householders; the other medical, certifying that the applicant is, physically speaking, a person qualified for active colonial life. These documents are required to be backed by another, attesting their genuineness, and signed either by a clergyman or a magistrate.

The preliminary information indicated above having been obtained, careful inquiry into the truth of all the particulars set forth is instituted by the District Committee, and an ultimate selection is made by the Executive Committee, who meet at the “Home,” in Hatton-garden, whither the candidates for emigration repair to be personally questioned. “The applications,” says a report before us, “are numerous; the applicants, though generally very poor, have been most respectable, and the committee have found no difficulty in selecting from among the class of needlewomen young persons qualified by their previous habits to make useful household servants.” Of the last party sent out a large majority were needlewomen, almost all of whom had been in service in some capacity—generally as maids of all work. The same remark applies in a very great measure to the detachment which embarked yesterday. Needlework was the last miserable resource upon which they had been compelled to fall back when unable to obtain places in families.

Upon being approved of by the Executive Committee, the emigrants are in many cases received into the “Home,” to which we have already alluded. This “Home” is an establishment rented from the Labourers’ Friend Society, and the committee report that its operation has been found most advantageous, “as a test of character, as affording an opportunity for moral and industrial training,” and as supplying facilities “for dividing the inmates into messes, and forming habits of regularity and method, which it is hoped will prove conducive to discipline during the voyage.” In some cases the emigrants are left until the period of embarkation, nominally residing with their friends, but passing a great part of their time at the Home, subjected to its general discipline, and taking part in its general employments. The appeals made by the Ladies’ Committee for clothes, to assist in forming the outfit of the emigrants, have been very generously responded to already, and it is hoped that the surplusage of many well-stocked wardrobes will still find their way to Hatton-garden, ultimately to figure in a clime in which, perhaps, the original wearers little thought that any shawl or dress of theirs would ever make its appearance.

There are now, we understand, about 24 young women in the “Home.” The party now on board the Tory, at Gravesend, amounts to 31. They were mustered at the Blackwall terminus yesterday, shortly before 12 o’clock—the Rev. Messrs. Queckett, and Sangar, assisted by the secretary, Mr. Henley, taking the direction of the proceedings. They appeared, without exception, healthy, intelligent, and respectable young persons. In manifest good spirits, dashed here and there with an outburst of parting tears, as relations were embraced for the last time upon the pier, the party embarked at Blackwall, about noon, and were soon placed—the power of a south-westerly gale adding wings to the steamer—on board the Tory, lying off the Town Pier. On the passage a very interesting document was presented to the members of the committee present. It was an expression of thanks and gratitude, originated, drawn up, and signed by the girls themselves. Even the matron was not aware that any such measure had been in contemplation, so perfectly unprompted was the whole proceeding.

The following is a copy of the document, which was written in a very fair, though somewhat unformed hand, and was unexceptional in point of orthography.

“From the girls, late resident in the ‘Home’—passengers per ship Tory—to their kind and honourable friends the ladies and gentlemen of the committee:

“We, the undersigned, beg to return our sincere and heartfelt thanks for the kind care and great trouble taken by them in our behalf, during our stay in their truly benevolent institution—the Emigrants’ Home, and for their excellent provisions for our voyage. We go, trusting by God’s help we may never disgrace their kindness or our country, and ever shall our earnest prayers for their eternal happiness ascend to that throne around which we hope to meet, convinced that they are laying up for themselves treasures in heaven. We leave our country without regret; not so our kind friends and our dear matron and her amiable sister. We cannot find words to convey to them any idea of their goodness to us. May the Almighty bless and reward all our dear friends with the crown of glory which fadeth not away, and may success attend their efforts, is the prayer of their humble and grateful servants.”

The Tory, we may as well state, is not the ship on board of which certain atrocities, lately the subject of parliamentary discussion, were alleged to have been perpetrated. That vessel, indeed, has been re-christened, and sails the seas with a fresh name painted upon her stern. The Tory with which we have to do is, as we have stated, a small but snug-looking barque, and although not apparently formed upon a very fly-away model, made a capital passage upon her last voyage to Australia. She is a very solidly-built ship, with a poop and cuddy cabin aft, and a rather high forecastle. Her ’tween decks are nominally seven feet; but of course the beams take off from this height. The arrangements below pleased us better than those in the Culloden. The number of emigrants to be taken is, if we mistake not, comparatively smaller; and the ’tween decks seemed to be both lighter and more airy than in the larger ship. In the present instance, however, provision has been made to convey the protégées of the Society apart from the general emigrants. This arrange will be carried out as far as possible in future voyages. In the Tory, the Society’s passengers occupy the best part of the ’tween decks—the after portion of the vessel—the space, in fact, which, had the ship not been provided with a cuddy under the poop, would have been the main cabin. A bulkhead partitions off the domain of the Society’s emigrants from the rest of the ship, and at night the key of the door will be entrusted to the matron. The sleeping berths are all arranged longitudinally on either side in two tiers of double rows, the space allotted to each emigrant being very decidedly larger than the usual cramped dimensions of a crib on shipboard. There are no partitions between the berths, but, starboard and larboard, run a couple of curtains, which can either be tied up or let down, so as to separate what may be called the dining and sitting part of the long cabin from the dormitories.

Shortly after their arrival the girls were mustered, each answering to her name, and proceeding to take possession of her berth. Then the mess utensils were distributed to each emigrant—a deep tin plate, a shallow bowl, a knife, fork, table and tea spoon, and to each mess of six its due compliment of tin dishes and tureens, tea and coffee pots. Silence being then proclaimed, and the doors of the bulkhead closed, the Rev. Mr. Brown made a few simple and apposite remarks upon the religious and moral conduct which he trusted would always characterize those whom he addressed. He was followed by the Rev. Mr. Queckett, who kindly yet forcibly pointed out the necessity for the maintenance of discipline and the observance of habits of industry upon the voyage. He informed the girls that needlework had been provided for them—that they would have a small library with which to occupy their leisure—and that an ample stock of pens, ink, and paper would be placed at their disposal. He reminded his auditors that the committee would feel the most lively interest in their welfare, and entreated them to write as soon as possible after their arrival, with full details of their reception and employment. Information of this kind, he impressed upon them, would be of the utmost service to the committee in guiding their future operations; and he besought the emigrants to try, as far as in them lay, to smooth the pathway and prepare homes for those who might in due time follow them.

The rev. gentleman’s brief but admirable address was listened to with profound attention, and when he concluded, the solemn silence—broken only by sobs and the half-suppressed sounds of weeping—formed a striking contrast to the blended Babel of noises which floated athwart the bulkhead from the other part of the ship.

So earnest is the desire of the committee that the emigrants should write them from the land of their adoption, that each has been furnished with envelopes, ready Queen’s-headed, and addressed to Mr. Sidney Herbert.

Before leaving the Tory, we had an opportunity of inspecting the very liberal scale of dietary adopted on board; and the Rev. Mr. Queckett, who saw all the provisions, pronounced them to be most excellent.

The final parting was painful. Feelings, kept under until then, burst irrepressibly forth, but the adieus were judiciously hurried over, and all more doleful sounds were drowned in the farewell burst of cheering under which the steamer shot away from the stout side of the Tory—the handkerchiefs of the emigrants, vigorously waved in token of adieu, fluttering like a display of bunting above the sombre-hued bulwark.

The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, April 4, 1850.