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Jo Stanley

Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory

Ayahs and Amahs aboard

Who were they?

Ayahs and amahs took babies and memsahibs to and from 'British India' before Independence in 1947. The pie chart shows my calculation about the recorded numbers. Actually more women travelled by non-recorded routes, such as via Marseilles.

Some of these precariously-employed nursemaids achieved extraordinary mobility and motility for the period. All were in the tricky situation of being cooped up with the employing family. So although the women might enjoy moonlight seascapes and pride in travelling, there could also be travel rage and the stress of keeping children safe in dangerous vessels that would never pass muster in today's risk assessments.

Total ayahs’ & amahs’ voyages to and from UK 1890-1960

Joining in the researching

  • Ayahs and amahs are now being studied by scholars internationally. Get in touch with The Ayah and Amah International Research Network, bit.ly/LSEAyahsNetwork
  • Follow the latest articles emerging at Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945, ayahsandamahs.com

What am I saying about ayahs at sea?

  • BLOG: Facing fatal Infection at Xmas: the ayah on the threatened SS Nubia, 23 December 2021. bit.ly/NubiaAyah
  • BLOG: Portuguese Ayahs: Early explorers of baby-minding sort, 14 November 2021, bit.ly/portugueseAyahs
  • TALK: Anything like Lascars? Race, gender and Ayahs (Asian nannies) as working passengers, 1850-1950,'Blaydes Maritime History Seminar, Hull. November 2021 and now available as PowerPoint at www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxBcDJx73z0
  • TALK: The Lascar's posh aunties: Indian ayahs working as passengers of the Raj: 1800-1939. Black History Month talk for Maritime UK's Ethnicity in Maritime Network. October 2021. bit.ly/AyahsMUK.
  • BLOG: First ayah rescued from shipwreck, 1832. bit.ly/1832shipwreck
  • Pioneering Indian ayahs afloat (South Asian Heritage Month). 11 July 2021. bit.ly/pioneering2021
  • BLOG: Re-inventing Jamaican nurse who sailed with baby Grace, 29 June 2021. bit.ly/JamaicaGrace.
  • BLOG: Wot dunnit? BAME nursemaid's puzzling death, Suez Canal, 1909. Gender and the sea, 16 May 2021, bit.ly/AmahBird1909

 

Ayah aboard. Re-tinted detail of ayah on P&O ship c1900, by Harry Furniss

Ayah aboard. Re-tinted detail of ayah on P&O ship c1900, by Harry Furniss

Ayahs

Watch and hear my angles on ayahs' history in a new 9-minute documentary film by Bhavishay Kher, Beyond Sea; The Untold Story of Ayahs.

My top five other sources for helping you learn more about seagoing ayahs' mobility and motility

  1. Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945, ayahsandamahs.com
  2. Olivia Robinson, 'Travelling Ayahs of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Global Networks and Mobilization of Agency, History Workshop Journal, Volume 86, Autumn 2018, Pages 44-66, doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dby016. (Institutional Registration required).
  3. Images of ayahs at Ayahshome, www.instagram.com/ayahshome/?hl=en.
  4. The Ayah and Amah International Research Network, bit.ly/LSEAyahsNetwork
  5. Alison Campsie, 'Uncovering the hidden histories of the ayahs of Scotland', The Scotsman, 24 October 2021, bit.ly/AyahsScotland