I chose to research the women who traveled to British Columbia on the Tynemouth Steamship because I was in a play about these women. I portrayed one of these women and I wanted to expand my understanding of their story. In my research paper I discuss the reasons why the women came to Victoria and British Columbia and why they were needed in the colonies.
The Anglican Church and the Tynemouth Beauties
The immigration of white women to British Columbia was caused by the Anglican Church’s needs for growth in the colony. The overpopulation of white men caused a homosocial culture to emerge as well as inter-racial marriages, much to the Church’s dismay. The Church proposed the solution of bringing white women into the colony to tame the unruly men. The over population of women and a financial crisis in England left many single women without jobs or marriage options. Two emigration societies emerged to support these women and their pursuits for a better life. When they arrived in Victoria men flocked to see them and the women had no problems finding work or husbands. The Church’s intent was to create a white Protestant community, hoping that these women would be the beginning of that community. The women who come over on the Tynemouth had a chance for better lives because of the Church’s need for growth allowed them to start over.
In the early 1860’s Victoria’s Government was trying to create a white settlement, even though the colony was quite ethnically diverse during this period. There were an average of 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants all with very different ethnic backgrounds (1). The majority of white men were gold miners scattered throughout British Columbia, and single white women in the community were almost non-existent. The lack of a white Protestant community caused the Government and the Anglican Church concern considering their goal of setting up British colonies. They asked for people to emigrate while simultaneously trying to relocate non-white settlers. To combat this issue there were multiple emigration societies dedicated for different people, some funded families coming to settle in the colony, some funded women coming to the colony (2). The Church expected these women to marry men who were already in the colony and create families for their new colony.
In British Columbia there was a surplus of men in the colony because of the Caribou gold rush in the Fraser river and area. Men from all over the United States and The Canadas arrived in hopes of striking it rich. There were around six thousand miners in British Columbia at this time (3). But women, including those who were married, were generally outnumbered three to one (4). This unbalance was adverse for the colony because men were not getting married and settling. The government was trying to grow the colony as the Church was trying to impose an Anglican community, but the men were neither drawn to settling or being real men of God. The men who came for the gold in the colony were not the kind of men who were drawn to family life, and the amount of these men made it difficult to start a community.
The high number of white men and the low number of white women in Victoria and British Columbia caused the men to develop homosocial relationships with each other. Homosocial relationships are defined as any same sex close friendship. When left to their own devices the men created a negative community. Perry states, “White men without white women were said to speedily sink into morally problematic habits, most notably drinking and gambling” (5). Since there were very few single women in the colony these men never got married and started a family, leaving them with no sense of responsibility. “A family is a burden till a man is established” (6). These men were very irresponsible and wanted to stay that way because if they never got married, they could continue to drink and gamble without the worry of responsibility.
Many of the white men who did marry chose Indigenous women as their partners. We do not know what would have happened if there were more white women in the western colonies, however the men who wanted to marry were not worried about the colour of their wife’s skin. “[M]arriage of a Native Indian woman to a white man was frowned upon…nonetheless, these marriages occurred.” (7) The Anglican Church attempted to convince white men that “mixed-relationships were usually… a problem for the white community”, even though the Indigenous women were often abused by their white husbands (8). The Church was very against inter-racial marriages as they did not help create a white Protestant community. The Church was of the opinion that Indigenous women did not encourage their husbands to raise their families in the Anglican Church.
The Church believed the solution to the problem to be white European women. They thought that women could control these unruly men. The Church believed women were men’s connection to religion and therefore the lack of white women was why the Churches were going unused despite the heavy Anglican presence in the colonies (9). The conclusion was that “without family life the Church could not flourish” (10). The Church decided the way to grow in the colony was to marry these men off. This would create families and the families would start creating a sense of community. Women were the key and the Church believed that if they introduced the men to these women, they would change their minds and want to get married to ‘proper girls’.
The girls who would emigrate were from England. In 1862 there was in financial crisis; factories and mills were closing in large numbers (11). Not only were there large numbers of workplaces closing but there were also large numbers of single unemployed women. These women were out of work and found it impossible to find a job. The English government was concerned that with no work or marriage prospects in sight these women might fall into the sex trade or other undesirable situations (12). Two societies were created to combat this problem: the Columbian Emigration Society to send over wives, and the Female Middle-Class Emigration Society’s to send over women to work (13). These societies both sent over girls on the Tynemouth steamboat, and although both societies sent the girls with different intentions, they still helped these girls escape the financial crisis and create better a better life.
The Female Middle-Class Emigration Society looked for specific women; women who had education but who were also desperate enough to leave their lives in England; they intended to send the girls over to become teachers or domestic servants (14). The Columbian Emigration Society specifically wanted girls who did not have employment or education because they were specifically looking to create wives out of these girls (15). Since Orphan asylums were overpopulated with girls aged 12-15, sending them to the colony to work or get married was a wonderful solution that benefited everyone involved (16). The daily colonist states the girls on the Tynemouth were “aged fourteen to an uncertain figure” (17). This showed that not all girls came from orphanages, as some were widows or older single women. The Church expected all the girls of age to be married very soon after their arrival (18). The society’s intention was to send the underaged girls over to work as domestic servants with the hopes that once they came of age they would marry.
Despite some men marrying indigenous women or happily being single, men traveled from all over the colony to meet the sixty-two women from the Tynemouth. These men wanted companionship and the Tynemouth women were familiar. The Daily Colonist has an article that seems to be targeting miners and men who have already established an income to take these women as brides, as they seem to be the kind of men the Church wants to settle down in the colony. The Church was quite successful in their pursuits considering half the women were married shortly after their arrival (19). What changed these men’s minds was either being introduced to the “English Beauties” (20) or free land laws. “Family formation was encouraged by laws that gave white men an additional 50 acres of free land if they were married and 10 more acres for each child under the age of 10” (21). This kind of arrangement could make a happily single man want to get married for purely economical reasons.
The Anglican Church in Victoria and British Columbia and the economic crisis in England were catalysts for the women’s emigration to the colonies. The homosocial culture continued as well as inter-racial marriage but the lives of the sixty-two Tynemouth women were changed for the better. The Church may not have succeeded in creating an exclusive white Protestant community, but they did succeed in allowing these women to flee a financial crisis and create better life working in the colonies and settling new communities.
- Adele Perry. “Hardy Backwoodsmen, Wholesome Women, and Steady Families: Immigration and the Construction of a White Society in Colonial British Columbia, 1849-1871.” On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849–1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000): 346.
- Ibid 357
- Jackie Lay. “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.” In Inher own right: selected essays on women’s history inC., edited by Barbara Latham and Cathy Kess, (Victoria, B.C.: Camosun College, 1980): 19
- Adele Perry. “’Oh I’m Just Sick of The Faces of Men’ Gender Imbalance, Race, Sexuality, and Sociability in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia”, BC Studies, 105/106, Spring (1995): 27
- Adele Perry. “`Fair Ones of a Purer Caste’: White Women and Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia.” Feminist Studies 23, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 509.
- A Returned Digger, The Newly Discovered Gold Fields of British Columbia (London: Darton and Hodge, 1862, 8th ed. March 1862): page 8
- “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.” 19
- Perry, “`Fair Ones of a Purer Caste’: White Women and Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia.” 506.
- Lay “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.”. 20
- Ibid 20
- Unknown author, “Our London Letter” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3
- Lay “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.” 22
- Ibid 22
- Ibid 22-23
- Ibid 23
- Ibid 22
- Unknown author, “The Arrival of the Tynemouth” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3
- “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.”34-35
- Ibid 35
- Unknown author, “Wouldn’t Let them Aboard” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3
- Perry “Hardy Backwoodsmen, Wholesome Women, and Steady Families: Immigration and the Construction of a White Society in Colonial British Columbia, 1849-1871.” 357
A Returned Digger. The Newly Discovered Gold Fields of British Columbia (London: Darton and Hodge, 1862,
8th ed. March 1862)
Lay, Jackie. “To Columbia on the Tynemouth The Emigration of single women and girls in 1862.” In
In her own right: selected essays on women’s history in B.C., edited by Barbara Latham and Cathy Kess, (Victoria, B.C.: Camosun College, 1980), pp 20-41.
Perry, Adele. “`Fair Ones of a Purer Caste’: White Women and Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century British
Columbia.” Feminist Studies 23, no. 3 (Fall 1997): pp. 501-524
Perry, Adele. “Hardy Backwoodsmen, Wholesome Women, and Steady Families: Immigration and the
Construction of a White Society in Colonial British Columbia, 1849-1871.” On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849–1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000): 343-360
Perry, Adele. “’Oh I’m Just Sick of The Faces of Men’ Gender Imbalance, Race, Sexuality, and Sociability in
Nineteenth-Century British Columbia” BC Studies, 105/106 Spring (1995), pp 27-43.
Unknown author, “Our London Letter” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3
Unknown author, “The Arrival of the Tynemouth” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3
Unknown author, “Wouldn’t Let them Aboard” The Daily Colonist, September 19, 1862, vol. 8, 3