The Female Emigration Society – Article 5

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, Saturday, July 20, 1850.


Yesterday the sixth party of female emigrants that have been sent out to Australia by the society lately formed under the auspices of the Right Hon. Sidney Herbert, embarked on board the fine ship the William Hyde, to proceed to Port Adelaide.

The present party is a comparatively small one, there being only twenty-one altogether; and we understand it is the last party that will be sent out to Australia this season; it being the wish of the committee to receive some intelligence of the success of the first batch that went out in the Culloden several months ago, before they send more to that quarter of the world. The operations of the committee are not, however, at a stand still. Active preparations are making for the despatch of a party to Canada, where arrangements have already been made for their reception, at Toronto and Hamilton, through the exertions of Mr. A’Court, brother-in-law of Mr. Sidney Herbert, who recently proceeded to Western Canada, and organised committees in the towns we have mentioned to look after the welfare and prosperity of the emigrants on their first arrival.

The emigrants mustered at Blackwall yesterday forenoon, and proceeded by one of the river steamers to the vessel, which was lying off Gravesend. Many of them were evidently of a superior class, indicating by their quiet demeanour and graceful manners that they had been accustomed to the proprieties of social life, while the appearance of all did credit to the care and attention of the committee in selecting them. The circumstances under which the party were proceeding to their new home at the antipodes were as various almost as the individuals. One or two had relations at Port Adelaide—one had a brother somewhere in Australia, but she did not know where—others in leaving England were leaving the only friends that had ever known or cared for them—while there were not a few who were equally friendless in the land they were leaving as in that to which they were going, and had none on earth to care for them but their kind patrons of the committee. But in the excitement of departure these reflections were scarcely felt; with one or two exceptions there was a general disposition to mirth and enjoyment; the girls laughed and chatted pleasantly with each other, their conversation frequently turning on the “Home,” where most of them had been lodged for a short time previous to the vessel being ready; and it was delightful to observe that in this unrestrained converse they were one and all warm in their praises of the matron, for the care and attention she had throughout bestowed upon them during their stay in that institution.

On going on board the vessel which was to convey them to their destination, the girls were at once taken down to the cabin prepared for them by the members of the committee, among whom were Mr. Sidney Herbert, Mr. Stuart Wortley, the Rev. Mr. Quekett, Rev. Dr. Brown, &c. Of the ladies’ committee there were present Lady Clanwilliam and the Hon. Mrs. Stuart Wortley, who were incessant in their attention to the girls, both in the voyage down the river and in arranging them in berths on board the William Hyde. It was curious to observe that those of the party who had been most lively and cheerful in the voyage down, became the most depressed in spirits when they gained the vessel, and the full importance of their novel position was for the first time recognized by them. The unnatural excitement which had before sustained them now gave way, and sobs were heard from many quarters. This did not last long, however; they were soon in all the bustle of selecting and arranging their berths. It may be observed that several of the girls were unable to provide any part of their outfit; and as it does not come within the scope of the society’s objects to do more than provide them with a free passage, several of the party, who were otherwise unexceptionable, must have been rejected on that ground alone, but for the kindness of Mrs. Herbert, Mrs. Stuart Wortley, and other ladies, who have raised a sort of supplementary fund to provide these poor friendless females with those things that are absolutely essential in a long sea voyage.

Every arrangement for the comfort of the emigrants seems to have been carefully studied by the committee. The ship in which they are to proceed to their destination is of the first class, and the accommodation she possesses for her passengers is of a very superior description, there being more than six feet between decks. The society’s protégées are separated from the rest of the emigrants who go out in her, a large portion of the ’tween decks being partitioned off for their sole use. Their beds are arranged, as usual, in double tiers along the sides of the vessel; and ample accommodation is made for light and air. The party proceed under the charge of a matron, whose husband has undertaken to act as schoolmaster during the voyage; which, with a supply of needlework, will afford occupation for the otherwise tedious hours that must be spent on the ocean. Several little comforts, which could only have been dictated by intelligent and thoughtful kindness, were also handed to the party by Mrs. Wortley, many of them being intended to be used only when the vessel reached the warmer latitudes.

The berths having been all selected, and order in some degree restored, Mrs. Wortley called each girl by name, and put into her hands a printed letter of directions for her conduct during the voyage, reminding them that it was only by cheerfulness and good temper, and by a strict obedience to the regulations of the matron, that the comfort of the whole party could be maintained. The letter, which has already appeared in our columns, was read aloud by Mr. Herbert, who afterwards addressed a few kind words to the emigrants, requesting them individually to write on their arrival to the committee, who would ever take a deep interest in their welfare, and reminding them that upon their own conduct, under God’s blessing, depended their future success in life. Every attention had been paid to their comfort on board, and in addition to the attentions of the matron who accompanied them, the wives of the captain and the surgeon of the vessel, who were about to proceed with them, would ever be ready to afford them advice and assistance; but, at the same time, they must not forget that they would have to rough it; they could not expect the same accommodation in the small compartment of a ship as in a large house; and it was only by mutual good humour and forbearance with each other that the happiness of all was to be promoted. He hoped they would remember this, and that each would endeavour to promote the comfort and convenience of her neighbours, as it was only in this way, and by a strict observance of the rules of the ship, that order and comfort could be maintained.

The Rev. Mr. Quekett also addressed the party, and reminded them that they now saw their accommodation in the very worst state it could possibly be in, but that after they had stowed away their boxes in the places provided for them, they would be surprised at the snug and tidy appearance which the place presented. He concluded with warm and affectionate wishes for their future welfare, which moved the grateful girls to tears.

The vessel, we understand, proceeds on her voyage to-morrow morning.

The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, July 20, 1850.