The Female Emigration Society – Article 6

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, Monday, August 5, 1850.


The Executive Committee have just broken ground for their operations in a new quarter of the world. During the spring and summer months they despatched six parties of young women, bound for different points of our Australasian empire, but principally Port Phillip and Sydney. On Saturday last the first detachment for Canada embarked on board the Elspeth, a compact little barque, which was to have dropped down the river yesterday, and is probably by this time in salt water.

We have already stated that a near relation of Mr. Sidney Herbert’s, Mr. A’Court, proceeded some months ago to Canada, to prepare the way for the emigrants whom the society proposed to send thither. The gentleman in question has been unremitting in his endeavours, and as successful as unremitting. He has succeeded, as we believe, in exciting a deep and warm interest in the proceedings of the society, and a genuine feeling of regard for the welfare of the young persons whom it proposes to select and send out. Committees of ladies and gentlemen have been formed in the more eligible Canadian towns, and the local and emigrational authorities, acting under Government, are wishful, in every available way, to aid in the furtherance of the society’s labours. The Elspeth is bound for Quebec. Upon their arrival there the emigrants will be placed on board a steamer—under the superintendence of the resident emigration inspector—and conveyed up the St. Lawrence, to Toronto, where they will be received by the local committee. By the next American packet despatches will be sent out to the committee, particularising, so far as possible, the capabilities and peculiar experience of each emigrant, so that by the time the party arrive on the banks of Lake Ontario they will probably find that due and considerate arrangements have been made for the provision of suitable places more or less adapted to their several requirements and capabilities.

The wisdom of the society in directing the stream of emigration in their hands towards colonies widely different in their geographical position and social state is very obvious. In some respects it is possible that the Canadian emigrants will find themselves not so advantageously situated as are their sisters who have dared the longer voyage and settled down in the Antipodes. Husbands will be by no means so easily come by in our North American provinces as in the more primeval regions of the bush; and the change effected in a few years in the social position of the girls will probably be by no means so marked. On the other hand, Canada has its own advantages. It is, comparatively speaking, close at hand—no such great gulf as a five months’ voyage interposes between the dwellers on the St. Lawrence and those on the Thames, and the step of emigrating is not therefore felt to be such a perfectly irrevocable one. Besides, many of the girls now being sent out have friends scattered through the provinces, and the selection of their destination has been their own work. The party who embarked yesterday consisted of twenty-five. They were in some sort picked girls—the committee wisely estimating the weight naturally to be produced upon colonial society by first impressions. As in the case of other detachments, the emigrants have been domestic servants and needlewomen.

The Rev. Mr. Quekett, as usual, took charge of the expedition. Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Herbert were prevented by an interesting domestic occasion from being present, and the lateness of the season interposed to forbid the presence of those ladies and gentlemen who have hitherto upon most occasions conveyed their protégées as far as the emigrant ship.

We have stated that the Elspeth is a small but compact-looking barque. She is a bluff-bowed, strongly-built ship, certainly not calculated for making miraculously speedy runs across the Atlantic, but a craft which will nevertheless in all probability be found a dry and comfortable one. She is a very good height, more than six feet from the floor to the beams. The emigrants have, as usual, a space in the after-part of the ship, before and under the quarter-deck, bulkheaded off for themselves, and entered by, so to speak, a private hatchway. The general style of sleeping arrangements is similar to that which we have already so often described, each berth being destined to hold two occupants, and two or three single cots being reserved in case of sickness. A surgeon, thanks to the precaution of the society, sails on board the Elspeth. The little formula observed upon these occasions, after the emigrants have been inducted into their cabins, was gone through precisely as we have frequently described it. The circular letters of introduction, and the directed envelope were handed round. The arrangements for work and study on the voyage were duly explained, and the parting instructions and counsels of the Rev. Mr. Quekett—given in the best spirit and taste—were listened to with many remarks of affectionate thankfulness. One or two of the girls were unable to control their feelings: but, as a whole, the emigrants were more tranquilly cheerful and sedately composed than the generality of any previous party. Lieutenant Lean came down in the steamer with the emigrants, and immediately set about his work of inspection on board the Elspeth.

Our readers may remember that in giving an account of the embarkation of a party of emigrants on board the Duke of Portland (we think it was), we adverted to the unconscionable fright of the timid young lady who was so startled by the noise of the steam-pipe at Blackwall that she absolutely turned back and refused to proceed. We were yesterday gratified to learn that, after sleeping upon the matter, she conquered her nervousness, came down again next morning, and got on board just as the anchor of the Duke of Portland was leaving the mud of the Thames.

We have alluded to the cheering matrimonial prospects before the female emigrants to Australia. The following letter, bearing somewhat upon the subject, and curious for its quaint naïveté, was written by a young person sent out some time ago, mainly through the benevolent instrumentality of the Rev. Mr. Quekett. We of course copy verbatim, excepting the names:⁠—

“Dear Aunt—I send those few lines to you, hoping they will find you and uncle and my dear brother in good health, as I am at present, thank God. We arrived safe, and had a very favourable passage. The ship landed in Sydney, and the girls and me was sent up to Goulburn, about 120 miles up the country, where we got service, at the rate of 16l. a year, where I remained three months, when a young man of the name of (C. B.) and me became acquainted, and asked me to marry him, and sent his father and sister for me, and took me to his own place, and sent for the parson and got us married in the month of June last. My husband is a boot and shoe maker. I feel quite happy. Dear aunt, I have to inform you that this is a fine healthy climate, and everything sells very cheap. Dear aunt, let me know if you intend coming to this country or any of my friends; be sure to bring my dear brother, or send him by some person that you can depend on. It would be my wish if you and all my friends would venture and to come, as it is a flourishing country to live in. Dear aunt, do not neglect writing to me as soon as you receive this letter, and let me know how all inquiring friends are. Give my love to all my uncles and aunts, and my dear brother.

“No more at present from your dear, ______”

“New South Wales, Sept. 4, 1849.”

The Morning Chronicle, Monday, August 5, 1850.