Image Female emigrants bound for Australia, 1834

TLF ID R8607

This hand-coloured lithograph, measuring 36.0 cm x 22.7 cm and consisting of seven panels of an original ten, depicts in cartoon form the deprivations suffered by single women migrating to Australia in the 1830s. Titled 'FEMALE EMIGRATION!', the scenes follow the story of the women leaving Britain, their rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay, sleeping and eating arrangements on board, their arrival in New South Wales and the poor conditions awaiting them there. Captions accompany the panels with additional speech bubbles in two of them.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The lithograph portrays some of the 2,700 single young women who, between 1833 and 1837, were supported by the British Government to migrate to Australia to escape overcrowded cities, unemployment, lack of opportunities and unfavourable gender balance. Australia sought labourers and a balance for its male population, which stood at 73 per cent in 1833, and promised a better life, improved conditions, opportunities and independence.
  • Cartoonist W Newman based his sheet largely on letters of dissatisfaction from female emigrants that had been printed in the British press, to expose in a humorous way the hardships the women faced. It is 'Dedicated with all due respect to the fair sex of Great Britain and Ireland by their obedient servant W.N.' and was published in Cheapside, London, by G S Tregear. The lithographs were printed using oil-based medium, acids, water and ink.
  • Respectability, as seen in the portrayal of the women in the lithograph, was a prerequisite for their selection by the London Emigration Committee, which administered the single female emigration scheme. A rigorous process of written applications, referees' reports, interviews and background checks was undertaken to select a cross-section of British and Irish society with virtuous characters, useful skills and excellent health, as well as excluding the 'dregs'.
  • The shipboard experiences of these women were similar to those of any other 19th-century voyager with the exception of convicts, whose safe delivery was worth money to ships' captains. The cartoon dwells on the cramped conditions and stuffy quarters, seasickness, lack of privacy, bad weather and monotonous food. The women would also have been distressed at leaving their familiar lives to face the risks of disease, shipwreck and travel to the unknown.
  • The probable disappointments suffered on arrival by these adventurous and enterprising women came about because the colony's only requirements were to find them temporary accommodation and keep a record of employment prospects for servants. Unlike female convicts, the free settlers disembarked in the middle of the day and were marched in twos, under public gaze and comment, to primitive accommodation - an unpleasant welcome.
  • Despite the pessimistic tone of the cartoon, the majority of female emigrants married skilled artisans, had large families and became an influential and hardworking part of the colony. Some did find the lonely, unprotected life in the new colony difficult, but improvements occurred in the women's treatment on arrival when Caroline Chisholm, the 'Emigrants' Friend', devoted her efforts from 1828 to 1866 to housing and finding employment for over 11,000 women in need.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: W Newman
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: W Newman
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements