A new class of women for the colonies



Title A new class of women for the colonies: the imperial colonist and the construction of empire
Author(s) Lisa Chilton
Journal Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History [Great Britain]
Date 2003
Volume 31
Issue 2
Start page 36
End page 56
Abstract The Imperial Colonist, a widely disseminated journal founded in 1902, was produced by women and designed to promote female emigration to Britain's colonies and to educate Britons and colonists about the empire. Members of female emigration societies were elite British women with close ties to influential men within the Anglican Church and the British and Dominion governments. They largely shared their male counterparts' political views, their sense of class and racial superiority, and their conviction that British imperialism was a civilizing, enlightening force. However, unlike other emigration promoters, female emigration societies' members were determined to settle large numbers of women from above the working class in the colonies. Beginning in the 1860's, they stressed that the empire's proper domestication hinged on the civilizing power of British women of gentle birth. Given the gendered nature of labor economy, domestic service, as The Imperial Colonist reveals, was the means to achieve the empire's domestication. Female emigration societies had to convince the colonies that employing gentlewomen as educated home help made sense, and it had to sell such employment to gentlewomen. Home help was promoted as a stepping-stone to better opportunities, financial stability, sanctified heterosexual love, and good fun, as gentlewomen in the colonies were unfettered by archaic social conventions. Few ideal candidates stepped forward, and even those from the ideal social background required training in their new roles.

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