Thursday, 1 March 2012

The post WW1 Free Passage scheme

After WW1, with so many servicemen killed, there was a a perceived surplus of women in Britain. It's the subject of an article "Our Excess Girls" by Lucy Noakes in the March 2012 issue of BBC History magazine and had book length treatment in Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson.
Noakes article discusses the Free Passage scheme, operated by the Overseas Settlement Committee between 1919 and 1922 under which 82,196 people left Britain of which 4,500 were single ex-servicewomen. There was a mismatch between the available jobs in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, mainly domestics, and the aspirations of the women many of whom had filled men's roles vacated for war service. It appears Australia was the primary destination for these emigrants.
While Noakes judges the scheme a failure based on the small number of women who participated, and it may indeed have been a failure, that can hardly be attributed to women's participation which wasn't the primary aim of the scheme.
Interestingly, at the same time the British War Office also operated a scheme which returned the British-born widows and children of WW1 deceased Canadian servicemen facing hardship back to Britain.


GW said...

Good posting. Your readers who are interested in the immigration of women to Canada after the Great War should be aware of the records, both British and Canadian, that can be found at Library and Archives Canada. These records include correspondence and subject files created by the Society of the Overseas Settlement of British Women, the Dominions Office, the Overseas Settlement Office and the extensive files of the Canada's Immigration Branch. If the number of British women who elected to come to Canada after the First War is not great, the documentation for those did certainly is.

History Man said...

I'll be talking about the Scheme in my talk to BIFGHS about Assisted Emigration at LAC on April 2. Unfortunately there are few records in the UK - just some Treasury files at The National Archives. And so far as I know there are no lists of applicants let alone those who were successful.