This morning I received my on-line Quilter’s Connection magazine – which featured this article: http://www.timescolonist.com/Quilt+Royal+Museum+honours+Home+Children/5884082/story.html#ixzz1h6HpsElb
At this time of year,when children and the needy are uppermost in our minds, it’s hard to think of these young ones torn from their homes and families and sent to a foreign country. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Home Children is a common term used to refer to the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa from the United Kingdom.
Australia has recently apologized for its involvement in the scheme, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a formal apology to the affected families in February 2010. Conversely, on 16 November 2009, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued a statement that Canada will not be apologizing to child migrants.
The practice of sending poor or orphaned children to British settler colonies, to help alleviate the shortage of labour, began in 1618, with the rounding-up and transportation of 100 vagrant children to the Virginia Colony. Labour shortages in the British colonies also encouraged the kidnapping of children for work in the Americas, and large numbers of children were forcibly emigrated, mostly from Scotland. This practice continued until it was exposed in 1757, following a civil action against Aberdeen businessmen and magistrates for their involvement in the trade.
The Children's Friend Society was founded in London in 1830, as "The Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy through the reformation and emigration of children". The first group of children was sent to the Cape Colony in South Africa and the Swan River Colony in Australia in 1832 and in August 1833, 230 children were shipped to Toronto and New Brunswick, Canada.
The main pioneers of child migration in the nineteenth century were the Scottish Evangelical Christian, Annie MacPherson, her sister Louisa Birt, and Londoner, Maria Rye. Whilst working with poor children in London in the late 1860s MacPherson was appalled by the child slavery of the matchbox industry and resolved to devote her life to these children. In 1870 she bought a large workshop and turned it into the "Home of Industry", where poor children could work and be fed and educated. She later became convinced that the real solution for these children lay in emigration to a country of opportunity and started an emigration fund. In the first year of the fund's operation, 500 children, trained in the London homes, were shipped to Canada. McPherson opened distribution homes in Canada in the towns of Belleville and Galt in Ontario and persuaded her sister, Louisa, to open a third home in the village of Knowlton, seventy miles from Montreal. This was the beginning of a massive operation which sought to find homes and careers for 14,000 of Britain's needy children.
CHILD EMIGRATION TO CANADA The attention of the Dominion Government has been drawn to the fact that the children sent to Canada from England are street waifs and workhouse paupers, and that the professional philanthropists engaged in the work are largely prompted by mercenary and not charitable motives. A demand will be made that parliament should investigate the matter before voting any money to promote this kind of immigration.
The Star, 18 April 1891
Maria Rye also worked amongst the poor in London and had arrived in Ontario with 68 children (50 of whom were from Liverpool) some months earlier than McPherson, with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Times newspaper. Rye, who had been placing women emigrants in Canada since 1867, opened her home at Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1869, and by the turn of the century had settled some 5,000 children, mostly girls, in Ontario.
The emigration schemes were not without their critics and there were many rumours of ill-treatment of the children by their employers and of profiteering by the organizers of the schemes, particularly Maria Rye. In 1874 The London Board of Governors decided to send a representative, named Andrew Doyle, to Canada to visit the homes and the children to see how they were faring. Doyle's report praised the women and their staff, especially MacPherson, saying that they were inspired by the highest motives, but condemned almost everything else about the enterprise. He said that the attitude of the women in grouping together children from the workhouses, who he said were mostly of good reputation, with street children, who he considered mostly thieves, was naive and had caused nothing but trouble in Canada. He was also critical of the checks made on the children after they were placed with settlers, which in Rye's case were mostly non-existent, and said that:
Because of Miss Rye's carelessness and Miss MacPherson's limited resources, thousands of British children, already in painful circumstances, were cast adrift to be overworked or mistreated by the settlers of early Canada who were generally honest but often hard taskmasters.
The Canadian House of Commons subsequently set up a select committee to examine Doyle's findings and there was much controversy generated by his report in Britain, but the schemes continued with some changes and were copied in other countries of the British Empire.
In 1909, South African born Kingsley Fairbridge founded the "Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies" which was later incorporated as the Child Emigration Society. The purpose of the society, which later became the Fairbridge Foundation, was to educate orphaned and neglected children and train them in farming practices at farm schools located throughout the British Empire. Fairbridge emigrated to Australia in 1912, where his ideas received support and encouragement. According to the British House of Commons Child Migrant's Trust Report, "it is estimated that some 150,000 children were dispatched over a period of 350 years—the earliest recorded child migrants left Britain for the Virginia Colony in 1618, and the process did not finally end until the late 1960s." It was widely believed by contemporaries that all of these children were orphans, but it is now known that most had living parents some of whom had no idea of the fate of their children after they were left in care homes, and some led to believe that their children had been adopted somewhere in Britain.
As they were compulsorily shipped out of Britain, many of the children were deceived into believing their parents were dead, and that a more abundant life awaited them. Many children were welcomed into loving homes, but others were exploited as cheap agricultural labour, or denied proper shelter and education and not allowed to socialize with native children. It was common for Home Children to run away, sometimes finding a caring family or better working conditions.
Here are some more articles, if you’re interested:
I was interested to read of a place in Duncan, BC where these children were taught farming and domestic skills. The bottom line here is that these children were not sent away to give them home and security, but rather sent away to become labor, cheap (and maybe even slave) labor at that!
And this statement:
"There was quite a push to keep the colonies British, and children were used," Skidmore said. "They were basically whitestocking the colonies."
This sounds like they were stocking a fish pond! Really!!!! Maybe the intentions of the pioneers of this movement were altruistic and caring, but it sounds like most of these children suffered immensely. My heart aches for them! If only we could go back in time and rectify the mistakes made, give back to those who were hurt.
These quilts at least tell the story, and bring to light the history – and maybe, just maybe, there will be some recognition given to the recipients of this movement. We can only hope!