Why Single Female Emigration to New South Wales (1832–1837) Was Doomed to Disappoint

  • Melanie Burkett
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


In this chapter, Burkett argues that the British government’s implementation of single female emigration to New South Wales in the 1830s—and colonial resistance to the programme—provided a moment for the articulation of acceptable (middle-class) femininity, to the detriment of the working-class women who received assistance under the scheme. The immigrants could be easily condemned on moral grounds due to a combination of factors: classed and inherently conflicting ideals of femininity, rhetorical tactics that linked the immigrants to convicts, a presumption that lost ‘respectability’ could not be regained, and a disconnect between British and colonial expectations for the women. These factors overlapped and created contradictions that proved impossible to resolve. As a result, the single female immigrants were doomed to disappoint.



This chapter is derived from my Ph.D. thesis, which was supported by the International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship. I would like to thank the participants of the 2017 Writers Retreat (sponsored by the Macquarie University Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations) for their valuable feedback on this chapter.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melanie Burkett
    • 1
  1. 1.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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