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Labouring Children

Labouring Children: British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924

Joy Parr
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Labouring Children
    Book Description:

    Out of print for several years,Labouring Childrennow has a substantial new introduction in which the author examines the historiography of the history of childhood, particularly in the light of recent literature on sexuality and the post-structuralist critique.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7654-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    Joy Parr

    This book was begun twenty years ago as a doctoral dissertation in economic history. The idea for the project, to try to reconstruct the pasts of the eighty thousand British children who had been assisted to emigrate to Canada between 1868 and 1924, was, in the 1970s, both new and conventional. At the time it was the newness of the project which seemed most notable. The study was to be a contribution to the new social and the new economic history, part of a new way of looking at the history of immigration, childhood, and the working class. A generation...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-6)
  4. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. 7-8)
  5. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 9-10)
    (pp. 11-13)

    Between 1868 and 1925 eighty thousand British boys and girls were sent to Canada to work under indentures as agricultural labourers and domestic servants. All were unaccompanied by parents, although only one-third of them were orphans. Most were not yet fourteen and still too young to leave school for full-time employment in the United Kingdom, although their educational opportunities would be limited in Canada and their work heavy. It seems strange to find such a policy flourishing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    The movement seems out of step with its time. The British childsavers who apprenticed youngsters...

    (pp. 14-26)

    There were visitors who came away from Salford, East London and East Glasgow eighty years ago claiming that in those crowded streets and lanes there were no children. School Board inspectors declared that there was no childhood among the poor, that there was only labour. European travellers reported that the labouring boys and girls of England were treated like men. Mission workers protested that their youngest clients were always pondering over things, apparently unable to play, unaware what play was. The pioneering social investigator Charles Booth described the elementary school pupils he met in East London as ‘anxious-eyed, with faces...

    (pp. 27-44)

    In many respects the British child emigrants were not typical of their time. Most people who left Britain in the nineteenth century paid their own passage; the child emigrants were assisted to leave Britain by philanthropic institutions, English parish authorities and Canadian immigration departments. Most nineteenth-century emigrants left voluntarily; the child emigrants were off to Canada before they had even reached the legal age of consent. Few British emigrants were any longer indentured in their overseas destinations; almost all child emigrants were apprenticed soon after they arrived in Canada. These characteristics made child migration more like British transportation and indentured...

    (pp. 45-61)

    The belief that agricultural work is pure and purifying, that rural life is innocent and peculiarly blessed by the gods, is very old. In the nineteenth century this ancient idealisation of agriculture, the association of rural life with morality and city life with corruption, of agriculture with nature’s bounty and commerce with man’s capacity to destroy, gained new force in Britain. Industry replaced trade as the mainstay of urban growth. The landscape and the physical health of workers were blighted in industrial districts. The more ugly and congested cities became, the more the countryside seemed the reservoir from which civic,...

    (pp. 62-81)

    The lights burned all night in the admission rooms behind Dr Barnardo’s ‘Ever-Open Doors’. Mr Quarrier’s great scroll diaries stood open to record the troubles of the next petitioner. Dedicated mission workers waited in similar rescue homes throughout Great Britain to welcome children in need. But distressed families regarded those warm lights with fear. The open gates were attached to high walls. Family or friends rarely led their children there without anxiety.

    Admission to a home separated children from the circle of family affection, placed them beyond the scrutiny and discipline of kin and demonstrated publicly that the family had...

    (pp. 82-98)

    It is not surprising that the child immigrants went to work when they came to Canada. They had worked when they were very young in their own families in Britain, and they had worked for neighbours, for distant relations and for their guardians in institutions. Naturally they would also work when older in Canadian households that sheltered them without claiming kin or community.

    But if their work responsibilities were unexceptional for children of the labouring poor, and though their position as household rather than family members was a common one in their time, these British youngsters’ status as aliens did...

    (pp. 99-122)

    Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the adoptive parents of the most famous of fictional Canadian orphans, Anne of Green Gables, decided to take in a child when Matthew grew too old to handle the work on the farm alone. Adult hired help was hard to find on Prince Edward Island, and the Acadian boys of the district would work for a time but soon left for the lobster canneries or the United States. Because local adults were unavailable and local adolescents unreliable, Matthew suggested they get a British apprentice from one of the distributing homes for child immigrants at Halifax or...

  13. Photographs
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 123-141)

    The Canadian childhoods of British boys and girls were a mixed blessing, physically good for the growing body but isolating, disheartening, less favourable for resolving the mental struggle of growing up. If the childhood years alone were considered, the juvenile immigration policy was a dubious business. But the sponsors of the movement were not primarily interested in the child’s early years. They looked past childhood inconveniences to the serious concerns of adulthood. If immigrants who had spent their youth in Canada adapted more readily, knew better how to get for themselves the best Canada had to offer, were more accustomed...

    (pp. 142-157)

    Through the early years of the twentieth century the character of the child emigration movement changed. Several of the evangelical founders of the rescue homes died, and with their passing the revivalist aims of the movement became less prominent. The goals of the child emigration homes became more secular, their missions more imperial than proselytising. Youngsters were removed from British slums because working-class neighbourhoods were considered unhealthy rather than evil environments, and they were placed in Canada more to acquire physical strength than to achieve spiritual salvation. During the Edwardian period more British children were assisted to Canada yearly than...

    (pp. 158-161)
    (pp. 162-176)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 177-181)