Melbourne University Press is excited to announce the publication of Blue China: Single Female Migration to Colonial Australia byJan Gothard.
Blue China offers insight not only into the experiences of the women under discussion, but also into the structures of colonial society in general. This is a compelling, lucid and engaging account of a neglected aspect of Australian history.
Joy Damousi, University of Melbourne
Almost a hundred thousand single women emigrated from Britain to the Australian colonies between 1850 and 1900. Colonial governments paid for their passages. The popular assumption is that most of these women came out to find husbands, but in Blue China, Jan Gothard establishes that female immigration schemes were devised to ease the desperate shortage of domestic servants in the colonies. The prime objective of the women themselves was to improve their lives through gainful employment.
The attitudes of the time strictly curtailed their mobility and initiative. Just as blue china became worthless if damaged, so too did single women. Colonial governments were anxious to see that their investment was well protected, so shipboard matrons went to great lengths to keep their charges away from all men, including ships’ officers. On arrival, the young women were again confined, herded this time into often grossly sub-standard depots. Isolated from their fellow-colonists, they were left ignorant about the wages they could have demanded in a hungry market.
Blue China analyses their experiences. Beginning with their selection and screening, it examines their shipboard passages to the colonies, their arrival—fraught with continuing official intervention—and their transition into domestic employment. Ultimately it shows how these women made their own use of the institutions designed to control them. Brought to life by fascinating excerpts from journals and diaries written by the women themselves, Blue China is their story.
Single Female Migration to Colonial Australia
July 2001, $44.95, HB
About the author:
Dr. Jan Gothard is a Senior Lecturer in History in the School of Social Inquiry at Murdoch University in Western Australia.
Melbourne University Press
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