Young Immigrants to Canada

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Maria Susan Rye - From Illustrated London News

Emigrant Girls in Canada

(From Illustrated London News, August 25, 1877.)

The beneficent labours of Miss Rye, in managing and personally superintending the industrial emigration of destitute female children and grown-up girls to the British colonies, have frequently been noticed. She has repeatedly visited both Canada and Australia, in charge of large numbers of these young people, whom she has taken care to place in suitable household service amongst respectable families of the colonists. At the end of last may she went out to Canada, accompanied by another lady, in the ship Sardinian, with seventy-three young persons, of whom ten were boys, seven girls in their teens, and the rest quite little children. Many of them were from the London workhouses. We have received from the lady who is with Miss Rye, at the town of Niagara, on Lake Ontario, a very satisfactory account of their proceedings. All their juvenile charges were safely provided for, on the 13th ult., except thirty, for whom they expected soon to find comfortable homes. Our correspondent says:-"Miss Rye is exceedingly particular in placing out these children, suiting the tender and timid ones to kindly and indulgent mistresses, and the wild, lawless ones to stricter managers. Nor is she satisfied to place children with householders, even those whose certificates from their ministers are satisfactory, if she has reason to think they are hard or careless. The results of her work are certainly wonderful. About one per cent only have been found to go astray out of nearly 1200 pauper children. Boards of guardians ought to send out the contents of their schools, they would, at their age, soon adapt themselves to Canadian requirements. This is certainly the paradise for working men and women. The Canadians are a homely people, full of energy and enterprise, but living simple, primitive lives, among their farms, fruit, and cattle; sitting down with their servants, generally, at the same table. I am no longer surprised at their readiness to take our children. Their wives do their own housework, perhaps with the help of one little maid, ten or twelve years old, who is brought up rather as a child of the house. She is clothed and maintained by her master and mistress, up to the age of fifteen, when she has three dollars a month wages, till she is eighteen, after which she can make her own terms, and is on the same footing as other Canadians. But the majority of Miss Rye's girls become adopted in the family and are frequently included in the testamentary arrangements made for other children. As for boys, the one thing wanting to Canada is hands to cultivate the land. At the age of eighteen anyone can claim a hundred acres of land, to clear and cultivate it, and to possess it for ever, so that our "gutter children" may become the future landlords of the country. Whole districts are waiting to be occupied, with rich arable land, where corn can be sown and ripened in two months, or peaches and cherries, and other fruits to supply foreign markets; with forests, minerals, and fisheries of untold value; and with vast lakes and rivers for the conveyance of their produce. But this is no country for drones. The town of Niagara, from which I write, is surrounded by a pastoral population in their thriving homesteads. The old townhall has been partly converted into a meat market, and the old county prison is now Miss Rye's Distributing Home. The Judge's court is made the dormitory for a hundred little girls, and small beds are placed also in the spectators' gallery, while the butter and other provisions are kept in the condemned cell. Our poor little waifs and strays of London life have terribly sad histories, many being children of drunkards, suicides, adulterers, and felons now in penal servitude. Of course, they may go wrong even in Canada, but it is certain that they will have fewer opportunities to err, and no vicious connections to drag them down. It is touching to see them here at play, before they are sent out to work." We have an implicit reliance upon the writer's correct testimony and sound judgment; and we would especially commend this statement to public attention just now, when Miss Rye's late controversy with the Local Government Board shows that her useful efforts of charity have been ill appreciated in certain official quarters.

The Emigrant-Girls' Home in Canada

(From Illustrated London News, Sept 29, 1877.)

We lately published an interesting letter from a lady who accompanied Miss Maria Rye with her last party of seventy emigrant children from London to Canada, and we now give an Illustration of the house in which they are lodged and taken care of while Miss Rye is making arrangements for placing them in household service or apprenticeship with respectable homely families in that country. Writing from Toronto on Sept. 7, the correspondent of the Standard supplies the following description:--

"At the mouth of the Niagara river, where its curiously green deep waters lose themselves in lake Ontario, lies the quaint old town of Niagara. A large and comfortable hotel, facing the lake and exposed to the cool northerly breezes, attracts thither a large number of Americans and Canadians during the three or four months of summer; but at other times and in other respects the old capital of Upper Canada must be a decidedly quiet place of residence, though to many persons this feature is fully compensated for by its cheapness, its charming climate, and the amazing fertility of its fruit orchards. The Niagara district is the fruit garden of Canada; and the hundreds upon hundreds of baskets and boxes of peaches, pears, plums, and grapes which the steamers bring across daily to Toronto in the height of the eason[sic] are among the pleasantest sights-and smells-in Canada. It is not, however, in the luscious fruits of Niagara that I wish to interest your readers, but in a certain square brick building standing about a mile out of the town, which, if not architecturally attractive, yet, with its deep verandahs and jalousies, looks comfortable and well cared for. Neither outside nor inside does it in any way betray the fact that its walls were originally those of the gaol of the district; for it stands in a garden and orchard where the trees are literally breaking under the weight of peaches and plums, and the vines are loaded with hundredweights of grapes; and its general appearance, as well as all its internal arrangements, were completely changed when it passed into the hands of its present owner and was adapted for its present use-the receiving-house, the 'Western Home,' as she calls it, of the young children who are intrusted to Miss Rye for deportation from England to Canada. Cleanliness, space, and airiness are the characteristics of the house that most strike the visitor on first entering; and the arrangements, if simple and inexpensive, are admirably adapted for their several purposes. To anyone who knows what is the life of a child in a London slum or an English workhouse, the picture presented and the contrast suggested by those twenty-five children-the latest arrived batch-whom I saw the other day, clean, ruddy, and happy, shouting up and down the verandahs, was certainly very striking indeed; but, instead of sending me away contentedly thankful that Miss Rye's labours had wrought such a happy change in these and hundreds of their predecessors in this 'Western Home,' it the rather incited me to ascertain what, if any, are the real objections which lie against Miss Rye's scheme and her system of carrying it out. The children, if I understand the process right, are derived from two sources-from workhouses, the guardians of which are willing and are authorised to intrust orphan and other children to Miss Rye; and from the streets and wretched tenements of London, whence waifs, orphans, deserted children, drunkards' children, and such like, find their way to her Home or receiving-house in Peckham. On arrival in Canada the whole batch is almost invariably brought to Niagara for rest, for study of their characters, for washing after the voyage, and for perfecting the arrangements for placing them in families, which usually have made applications for all of them long before their arrival. After the lapse of a week or two the concourse is dispersed, the children are sent or taken to their new homes, and their new life begins."

There has been some controversy in official quarters upon the merits of this system; and mr. Doyle, an Inspector of the Local Government Board, who was sent out to Canada, reported that it had in many cases proved satisfactory. It appears that in the six years terminating with 1876, Miss Rye had landed at her establishment in Niagara 1100 children from the streets and workhouses of England, and it reflects credit upon the sanitary and dietary regulations to which her numerous charge has been subjected that during this entire period the death rate in the number specified amounted only to fifteen. She is reluctantly compelled to admit, however, that sixteen of the workhouse girls fell, and that a considerable number besides had displayed violent temper and extreme insubordination, resulting in a frequent change of situation and sometimes in their return to the Home. Nor is this fact strange, when their previous lack of firm but gentle discipline is taken into account. She also admits having lost sight of twenty-eight girls under fifteen years of age.

Notwithstanding these partial failures and disappointments, we receive the testimony of the Toronto correspondent of the Standard in favour of Miss Rye's proceedings. "We in Canada," he says, "know something of her work, and we in Canada are to a great extent satisfied that it is a good work, and fairly well done. It is true she is overtaxed; it is true that single-handed she is not equal to the labour and expense of doing the whole thoroughly. No one person, man or woman, however much his or her heart may be in the work, can possibly supervise the collection of the children in England, their exportation, their reception here, the selection of homes for them, and keep up also a careful systematic supervision over them for many years. Miss Rye has done wonders; her energy and her enthusiastic devotion to her self-imposed labours have triumphed over difficulties which would have swamped an official craft long ago; and she can have the satisfaction of feeling that she has rescued from a life of wretchedness, and probably of sin, hundreds of children, who have a useful and, on the whole, happy career open to them. Nobody in Canada ever expected that the mere passing through Miss Rye's hands would be a more efficient detergent than the waters of baptism; that with her workhouse clothes the workhouse girl would 'shed' all her moral delinquencies, not only those acquired by herself, but those inherited from, perhaps, generations of ignorant or vicious parents. Children brought up, or 'dragged up,' as most of these have been cannot be expected to show either a morality or a capacity above the average; and, though there have been some very black sheep in the flock, the experiment of importation has been, on the whole, very satisfactory. This is the verdict of the Canadian public. As regards the children themselves, I believe that their position is, in nine cases out of ten, good and satisfactory. No one in this senses ever expected that these waifs and outcasts were to be placed on beds of roses; that their days were to be passed in happy romping among the peach-trees of their 'Western Home;' that they were to be free from toil, and subject to none of the rough usage that falls to the lot of the children of the poor all the world over. Occasionally, no doubt, they have fallen into bad hands, and been subjected to the caprices of cruel or grasping mistresses. But let us have no 'goody' philanthropy in this matter. Think what these children were, and what they would inevitably have developed into if left to chance and the workhouse, and then let anyone ask himself whether the lot of at least nine tenths of them is not immeasurably better now."

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