Maria Rye's Emigration Home for Destitute Little Girls
Maria Rye was an important, if highly controversial, figure in the development of child migration schemes to Canada in the late 1860s. The strength of the archives lies in the numerous pamphlets and articles about her work, especially her use of excerpts from children's letters.
D630.5.1: Maria Rye
Maria Rye (1829-1903) founded the Female Middle Class Emigration Society in 1861, and was responsible for escorting parties of young women to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In 1869 she turned her attention to assisting young girls, usually aged between 5-12 years who were in the workhouses. She appealed for 1000 to finance such a scheme in a letter to The Times newspaper in March 1869. She was clearly successful as the first party of 76 children, many of whom were from Liverpool workhouse schools, sailed from Liverpool to Canada on the SS Hibernian six months later.
In the annual report of 1874 Maria writing about the costs involved, said that the "expense of taking a child out of the gutters in London, and placing it in Canada...may be roughly reckoned at 15 per head" (see D.630 1/1)
The main focus of her efforts in England was the house in Peckham, which was opened on the 13 July 1872. Descriptions of the property, which was capable of housing up to 80 girls, mention its own laundry, school house, playground and a two acre garden. Most girls spent up to a year at Peckham before they were migrated to Canada via Liverpool and Quebec, from where they would travel by train to the reception home at Niagara, called 'Our Western Home'. This former jail and courthouse could accommodate up to 120 children.
In 1874 the Local Government Board commissioned Andrew Doyle, one of its senior inspectors, to report back on all aspects relating to the emigration of workhouse children to Canada, with particular concern to the schemes operated by Maria Rye and Annie Macpherson. Doyle's report was so critical of both the policy and the practice, especially regarding Maria Rye's scheme that the Local Government Board stopped the emigration of children from workhouses in March 1875, a decision that forced Maria Rye to effectively suspend activities for two years.
After a serious illness in 1895 Maria Rye retired, passing the management of the organisation onto the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society. Emigration through the scheme ceased in July 1915 when the Home closed.