She Travelled: The Portrait of Joanna de Silva, the Indian Ayah at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

My encounter with Joanna de Silva, a nursemaid from eighteenth-century Bengal, India, was rather serendipitous! I came to know of the portrait of Joanna through a research network of scholars and enthusiasts committed to unravel the history of Indian ayahs and Chinese amahs, the native nursemaids in the service of European employers in colonial India.[1]Continue reading “She Travelled: The Portrait of Joanna de Silva, the Indian Ayah at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York”

“For Nannie”? The controversial case of a Sinhalese “amah” in white Australia

The historical relationship that connects Australia and South Asia is one that we are just beginning to understand.[1] Our project brings a new dimension to that story by exploring the experiences of South Asian women who journeyed across the Indian Ocean and came to Australia as nursemaids to children. One such woman was Sinhalese amah,Continue reading ““For Nannie”? The controversial case of a Sinhalese “amah” in white Australia”

Thomassee: The first Australian ayah

Many of the stories of the travelling ayahs and amahs that we are learning about today concern those women who travelled between Asia and England during the period of the British Empire. As part of this project, however, we are looking for stories of women who travelled south from India and China, to Australia. TheseContinue reading “Thomassee: The first Australian ayah”

Locating Ayahs in Transit: A Passage to Australia and other Parts of the World

As a social historian whose work focuses on domestic laborers in colonial India, I intend to unravel the story of Indian female domestic workers who travelled to Australia, directly or via England, and to other British colonies in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Today in India’s imagination, Australia chiefly looms large as a majorContinue reading “Locating Ayahs in Transit: A Passage to Australia and other Parts of the World”

Her Devoted Ayah

Our project on the Travelling Ayahs and Amahs looks at families and family life embedded in histories of empire. In this first of a series of blogposts on the project, Victoria Haskins shares the stories from her own family, that sparked her interest in this history.  In August 1858 Margaret Ann Goldie, a young womanContinue reading “Her Devoted Ayah”