"Worthy of a More Lasting Place": Emigrant Women and Moral Order in Colonial Australia, 1849-1855

Bielat, Isabel, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Linstrum, Erik, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia

In 1851, Australia’s first gold rush initiated an era of rapid immigration from several continents. Through print media purporting to represent British emigrant experiences, social critics imagined the consequences of this influx of would-be settlers. To meet rising moral anxieties about the future of Australian settler society, emigration assistance funds publicized application and supervision processes that scrutinized the character and identity of emigrant women. Emigrant selection records from these semi-private associations prefigured the increasingly sophisticated policing of identity and mobility that would come to mark British imperial governance in the later nineteenth century. Yet rather than aligning emigration funds with modernizing sociopolitical impulses, these expanded bureaucratic methods perpetuated earlier perspectives on women’s moral and socioeconomic roles. By depicting female emigration in the 1850s as a question of public interest, imperial networks of literature and documentation demanded that the British and colonial Australian public enforce moral order across the empire.

MA (Master of Arts)
Women immigrants -- Australia -- History -- 19th century, British -- Australia -- History -- 19th century, Emigration and immigration -- History -- 19th century, Working class women -- Australia -- History -- 19th century, Emigration and immigration -- Literature -- 19th century
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