“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”

Travelling Pictures and Blurry Visions: Photographs of Chinese Amahs

Our project seeks to trace not only how ayahs and amahs travelled across the world but also how images of these women circulated. Pictures of ayahs and amahs travelled as illustrations in books, photographs enclosed in letters, ethnographic postcards exchanged as curiosities, and as paintings purchased for display in homes and galleries. Today these imagesContinue reading “Travelling Pictures and Blurry Visions: Photographs of Chinese Amahs”

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”

A Japanese Amah

The following blog tells the story of a uniquely transnational amah called Tuk-San. [1] Tuk-San was a Japanese woman who travelled with the Hillier family between China and England at the turn of the twentieth century. Her story is contributed by historian and author Dr Andrew Hillier. ‘I came to Europe from Peking for theContinue reading “A Japanese Amah”

Chinese amahs in Britain and Australia

A range of historians and public history practitioners have brought to light the stories of travelling Indian ayahs in Britain. [1] Much less is known about the Chinese amahs that travelled with employer families to Britain. The stories of the Chinese amahs and Indian ayahs who travelled to Australia (even after the passing of theContinue reading “Chinese amahs in Britain and Australia”

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”