Legacies: stereotypes, racism and the civil rights movement

Probable Effects of Over Female Emigration

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), 1851

Object number PHM RH2
Given as part of the Communist Party of Great Britain Picture Collection, 1997

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Probable Effects of Over Female Emigration

The full title of this print is 'Probable Effects of Over Female Emigration or Importing the Fair Sex from the Savage Islands in Consequence of Exporting all our own to Australia!!!!'

During the first half of the 1800s, it became apparent that decades of male British settlement in Australia had resulted in an extreme shortage of women, causing significant social unrest in the colony. Concerted efforts to address this imbalance included the offer of assisted passages for British women to settle in Australia, the popularity of which, in turn, resulted in a critical shortage of women in Britain.

This well-known satirical print, by the prolific caricaturist George Cruikshank, offers up a solution to the problem and a warning of its potential consequences. In Cruikshank’s dockside scene, a group of smiling, excitable women from the Pacific islands have just arrived in England, in response to the desperate call for female immigration. They are met with evident horror by the group of pallid, quivering Englishmen gathered anxiously to greet them.

The women are depicted as gross caricatures, their coarse facial features and dark skin colour at odds with their dainty parasols and coy manners. Such crudely racist stereotypes and connotations of savagery became embedded in visual culture and continued well after the abolition of slavery. However, the English gentlemen are also drawn with the caricaturist’s eye, depicted as feckless fops and dandies, observed with wry amusement by the cigar-chewing merchant in the centre of the picture.

This information was provided by curators from the People's History Museum.