Wednesday, 9 May 2018 (11am)
Waurn Ponds: ic3.108
In the nineteenth century, British writers and philanthropists grew increasingly concerned about the children of the poor, which resulted in legislation limiting children’s employment, mandating education, and attempting to protect them from cruelty and neglect. Alongside this legislative intervention were campaigns like those by Thomas Barnardo to care for poor children. Barnardo was responsible for the establishment of numerous children’s homes and an extensive emigration program to assist children in need by sending them to Canada. He came to realise that educating children about his charity and encouraging their contributions were an important element of philanthropic continuity. To this end, in 1892 he created the middle-class British children’s magazine, The Young Helpers’ League Magazine. In 1895, the Canadian branch of Barnardos created its own magazine, Ups and Downs, aimed at young people who had been emigrated to Canada to work as farm labourers and domestic servants.
Although these magazines had similar aims of encouraging child readers to support the organisation, Ups and Downs differed in its focus on children who had already received support from Barnardos and who were being encouraged to repay its investment so that other children could also be assisted to emigrate. The magazine promoted the value and benefit of emigrating poor British children to Canada in order to provide them with better opportunities. Yet notions of family and nationality were disrupted – if not severed – by this migration, and child migrants often suffered at the hands of ostensible caregivers. Unsurprisingly, much of the child emigrants’ correspondence published in Ups and Downs depicts the emigration experience positively. Nonetheless, some letters – as well as other evidence about these British Home Children in the Canadian press and in government reports – demonstrate the challenges of climate, discipline, and farm work. These child emigrants are defined by their mobility, but also by the ways in which their experiences as indentured child labourers isolated them from their community and family.
Kristine is a lecturer and ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher in the School of Communication and Creative Arts. Her monograph, Constructing Girlhood through the Periodical Press, 1850-1915 (Ashgate, 2012) was a semi-finalist for the Colby Book Prize honouring the scholarly book that most advances the understanding of the nineteenth-century British newspaper or periodical press.