Guide to the Records of the British Women's Emigration Association (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

British Women's Emigration Association
Records of the British Women's Emigration Association (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1861 - 1901
Collection Number
6 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Letter-books 1862-1882 containing copies of letters, with index, from women emigrants in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, mainly to Maria Rye and Jane Lewin, giving first impressions of the colonies and details of employment. There are also letters from the Society's New Zealand representative, Harriet Herbert.

Press cuttings 1880-1895 from English and Canadian journals and newspapers relating to women's emigration.

Minutes of the Finance Committee of the United Englishwomen's Emigration Association, March 1885-March 1886, with statements of its aims and organisation.

Letter 1949 from G.F. Plant and typewritten reply concerning the history of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society and the Colonial Intelligence League.

Minutes of the Council and some sub-committees of the United British Women's Emigration Association, May 1896-December 1901.

Published addresses: Emigration of Educated Women (1861) by Maria S. Rye and Female Middle Class Emigration (1863) by Jane E. Lewin.

Printed annual reports of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society 1861-1872, 1874-1879 and 1883-1885.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the London School of Economics and Political Science and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy. Example: M Series: Cannan to S Evans, 12 December 1920, London School of Economics and Political Science. (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the Women's Migration and Oversea Appointment Society as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1963 (AJCP Reel: M468). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

The archives of the British Women's Emigration Association and related organisations were deposited in the Fawcett Library in 1964. Other records of the Association held in the Fawcett Library were microfilmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project on reel M2291.

In 1977 the Fawcett Society transferred its library to the City of London Polytechnic, which became the London Guildhall University in 1992. Its name was changed to the Women's Library in 2002. Since 2013 the Women's Library has been held in the British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics, 10 Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HD.

Existence and Location of Originals

The Women's Library, formerly the Fawcett Library, Calcutta House, London.

For further information see The Women's Library (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

See M2291-M2314: Collections held by the Fawcett Library ( for further records of the British Women's Emigration Society.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Australia: immigration to; British Women's Emigration Association; Colonial Intelligence League; Female Middle Class Emigration Society; Herbert, Harriet; Lewin, Jane E.; New Zealand: immigration to; Plant, G.F.; Rye, Maria S.; South Africa; Unemployment; United English Women's Emigration Association; women; Women: emigration; Women: employment


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 72, pp. 24-25.

Biographical / Historical

The formation of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society in London 1862 was largely due to the exertions of Maria Rye (1829-1903). The daughter of a solicitor, she was the manager of a law stationery business and was active in the Society for Promoting Employment of Women. She was convinced that there were many opportunities in the colonies for 'educated women of a respectable character' to find work as teachers or governesses. The aim of the Society was to help such women to emigrate by securing passages, purchasing cabin fittings and making loans, to be repaid within two years. Correspondents were appointed in major colonial posts who undertook to meet the emigrants and help them to obtain employment. They included Jane Barker and Fanny Perry, the wives of the Anglican bishops of Sydney and Melbourne.

Maria Rye and Jane Lewin were appointed the honorary secretaries of the Society. Rye left England in 1863 on a long visit to Australia and New Zealand and Lewin was the sole secretary until 1882. The Society sponsored 302 women between 1861 and 1885. By far the largest group went to Australia, followed by New Zealand and South Africa. Small numbers also went to Canada and the United States. Economic depression in the late 1860s and the expansion of public education in the Australian colonies in the 1870s meant that there were fewer opportunities for governesses and by the early 1880s the activities of the Society had virtually ended. Its final report in 1886 announced that its work had been transferred to the Colonial Emigration Society.

The writer and social reformer Louisa Hubbard (1836-1906) set up the Women's Emigration Society in 1880 and the United Englishwomen's Emigration Association in 1884. The later became the United British Women's Emigration Association in 1889. (The 'United' was dropped in 1901.) In 1919 the Association amalgamated with the Colonial Intelligence League and the South African Colonisation Society to form the Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women. It was dissolved in 1964.

Reference: Patricia Clarke. The Governesses: letters from the colonies 1862-1882, Melbourne, Hutchinson of Australia, 1985.

Item Descriptions

Letterbook of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society, 1862 - 1876 (File 1)

The volume contains copies of letters from governesses who had emigrated to the colonies, mainly Australia and New Zealand, with the assistance of the Society. They were addressed to the secretaries of the Society, Maria Rye, Jane Lewin, Martha Wyett and Miss Sunter. Most of the correspondents wrote a letter soon after their arrival, while a small number sent several letters over a period of years.

Some of the letters were simply business letters concerning the repayment of loans or other financial matters. Others were much longer, describing their experiences since they left England, their impressions of their new homes and colonial society generally, and their hopes and disappointments. Among the subject matter of the letters were the voyage, conditions on the ships, relations with other emigrants, their first impressions on their arrival at their destination, relations with colonial clergy and other settlers, their employment as governesses and teachers, wages, the management of children, changes of employment, marriages, decisions to return to England, prospects for governesses in the colonies, wages of domestic workers, bush life, colonial society and the financial position of the colonies.

The Australian correspondents include Margaret Allen (Melbourne, Mount Gambier), Marie Atherton (Brisbane), C. Barlow (Melbourne), Mary Bayly (Sydney), Eliza Bernard (Sydney), Elizabeth Boake (Melbourne), Louisa Booty (Sandhurst, Victoria), Maria Borrow (Melbourne), Ann Davis (Sydney), Louise Dearmer (Sydney), Jane Finch (Sydney, Yass), Eliza Ford (Sydney), Louisa Geoghegan (Apsley, Victoria), Fanny Giles (Morpeth, NSW), Omérine Giraud (Melbourne), Gertrude Gooch (Sydney), Sarah Hamnett (Melbourne), Caroline Heawood (Melbourne, Ballarat), Annie Hunt (Melbourne, Wangaratta), Ellen Ireland (Newcastle, Goulburn), Edith Jadis (Melbourne, Deniliquin), Laura Jones (Melbourne, Waranga, Sandhurst), Jane Kidson (Melbourne), M. Kightley (Melbourne), Caroline Lash (Sydney), Isabella MacGillivray (Williamstown, Victoria), Agnes Macqueen (Brisbane), Cécille Nagelle (Melbourne, Gawler, Angaston), M.A. Oliver (Horsham, Victoria), Ellen Ollard (Melbourne), Rosa Phayne (Glenorchy, Melbourne), Lucy Phillips (Melbourne), Mary Phillips (Goulburn), Mary Richardson (Port Macquarie), Isabelle Rodgerson (Sydney), Annie Shaw (Melbourne), Clara Stone (Melbourne ), Elizabeth Streeter (Jerry's Plains, Hunter Valley), Eliza Walpole (Ballarat), Sarah Webb (Sandhurst, Victoria) and H. Wilson (Brisbane).

The New Zealand correspondents include Lizzie Braddell (Manuherikia, Otago), Kate Brind (Nelson), Eliza Brook (Dunedin), Mary Brook (Dunedin), J.M. Cary (Dunedin, Wanganui), Marian Hett (Christchurch, Napier, Wellington), Augusta McNeill (Lyttelton), Georgina McNeill (Lyttelton), E.L. Manning (Dunedin), J. Merritt (Auckland), Lucy Scott (Christchurch), M.E. Smith (Wellington), Barbara Starkey (Napier), Fanny Thomas (Dunedin), Mary Wilson (Masterton) and Martha Wyett (Greytown, Wairarapa).

Letterbook of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society, 1877 - 1882 (File 2)

The volume is similar to the first letterbook, although it covers a shorter period and there are a greater number of South African correspondents. The letters were addressed to Jane Lewin and Miss Sunter. The Australian and New Zealand correspondents include Florence Allen (Perth), Georgie Bird (Christchurch), Eleanor Blackith (Napier), J. Caldwell (Christchurch) Fanny Cross (Dunedin, Oamaru), M. Crowley (Illabo, NSW), Caroline Fox (Orari Gorge, Timaru), E.A. Hacon (Timaru), Caroline Haselton (Melbourne), Harriet Herbert (Waipukurau, Hawke's Bay), Pauline Jordan (Melbourne), Charlotte Kemp (Auckland), I. Keith (or Leith) (Canterbury, NZ), Elizabeth Long (Waimarama, Hawke's Bay), Cécille Nagelle (Angaston, SA), A. Russell (Dunedin), Ida White (Bowral, NSW) and S. Woerner (Dunedin).

Newspaper cuttingbook, c. 1886-1896 (File 3)

The cuttings deal mainly with emigration, and particularly the emigration of women, as well as emigration societies, shipping, and social and economic conditions in the colonies. Several articles refer specifically to Australia. The newspapers represented include the Daily Mail, Daily News, Guardian, Manchester Guardian, Queen, St James Gazette, The Standard and The Times.

Minutebook of the Finance Committee of the United Englishwomen's Emigration Association, March 1885 - March 1886 (File 4)

At the end of the book are two cheques signed by Maria Rye and Jane Lewin (1862), a proposal for the Association to use the Female Middle Class Emigration Fund for a period of five years, a letter from Jane Lewin to Louisa Hubbard on the same subject (3 Dec. 1891), and a letter of G.F. Plant (2 Aug. 1949) and a reply on the history of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society and the Colonial Intelligence League.

Minutebook of the Council of the United British Women's Emigration Association, May 1896 - December 1901 (File 5)

The book also contains minutes of committees of the Association.

Printed documents, 1861 - 1885 (File 6)

6 items

Maria Rye. Emigration of educated women, London, Emily Faithfull & Co. (15pp.), n.d. (Item)

A paper read at the Social Science Congress in Dublin in 1861.

Jane Lewin. Female middle class emigration. (4pp.) (Item)

A paper read at the Social Science Congress in Oct. 1863.

First report of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society (15pp.), 1861 - 1862 (Item)

Report of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society (20pp.), 1862 - 1872 (Item)

Report of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society (14pp.), 1880 - 1882 (Item)

Report of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society (16pp.), 1883 - 1885 (Item)