Photograph of an amah with her mistress and a child, Singapore Swimming Club, 1939. Collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand

This project is dedicated to studying the female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia and elsewhere during the period of British colonialism, the travelling Ayahs and Amahs.

These were extraordinarily mobile women, accompanying colonial families along circuits of empire between Australia, Asia, and the UK over two centuries.

By exploring the historical experiences and cultural memories of these earliest global domestic workers, the project aims to illuminate a broader transcolonial history of domestic work.

Ayah in Edinburgh. The Library of Nineteenth Century Photography. Photographed by James Jameson in the early 1880s

Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945 brings together prominent historians from Australia and the US to conduct internationally collaborative research on the transcolonial origins of global migrant domestic work. University of Newcastle historian of domestic service and colonialism, Professor Victoria Haskins, is leading the project and joins with A/Prof Claire Lowrie from the University of Wollongong and Professor Swapna Banerjee from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Prof Victoria Haskins
Prof Swapna Banerjee
A/Prof Claire Lowrie
Srishti Guha
Dr Lauren Samuelsson
Charmaine Lam

Visit our online exhibition Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Journeys by clicking on the image above

September 8, 2022 – September 8, 2023

Unknown ayah in unknown location, possibly Calcutta, India in the 1930s, Huntley Film Archives
A home movie of amahs in Hong Kong in the 1930s. Video shot by Douglas Chun Wai Yee. Edited by Leonard To.

Contact Us

We acknowledge and respect the sovereignty of First Nations peoples of the world

Australian Research Council funded project DP200100375

This project is supported by Purai Global Indigenous History Centre, University of Newcastle