So, what of these emigration societies and the ladies who operated them? There had been government assisted passages to
up until the late 1880s. These began again
during the early 1910s, and this must have been the chance that Ethel took.
Young boys, who were destined to work as farm apprentices, often shared the sea
voyages with the many hundreds of British women who sailed away to become
‘domestic helpers’ until the start of the Great War. One of the first
stopping-off points for those who sailed to South
Australia was the Domestic Helpers’ Home at Adelaide 5 Charles Street, Norwood,
in the suburbs of the city. Fortunately there is a wonderful on-line historical
resource called Trove which has allowed me to discover how these emigration
societies worked, and the motivations and attitudes of those involved, even
down to interviews with the young émigrées themselves. A word of warning,
however – these contemporary accounts seem to have been written with the aim of
bolstering the emigration schemes supported by the South Australian government:
it would have been regarded perhaps as disloyal to the ‘new’ Australia for the
press to paint in all the ‘warts’.