Thousands of women migrated to the Australian colonies from Great Britain and Ireland during the nineteenth century. This mass movement of women commenced with the processes devised by the Emigration Commission of 1831-1832, followed by the work of the London Emigration Committee of 1833-1836 and continued throughout the century through a number of schemes funded both by the British government and private organisations to encourage women to emigrate.
Liz Rushen’s work focuses on the 1830s to the 1850s. They were decades in which decisive changes took place in the demography of the eastern colonies of Australia. Potential emigrants were attracted to the British government’s schemes, but there were long-lasting tensions between the government’s commitment to imperialism and the wishes of influential colonists for self-determination. The women were caught in the middle. Immigration to Australia is a process which is on-going and as contentious today as it was in colonial times.