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This exhibition is a part of the Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945 project, a Discovery Project funded by the Australian Research Council.


The project is dedicated to studying female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia and elsewhere during the period of British colonialism, the travelling Ayahs and Amahs.


These were extraordinarily mobile women, accompanying colonial families along circuits of empire between Australia, Asia, and the UK over two centuries.


By exploring the historical experiences and cultural memories of these earliest global domestic workers, the project aims to illuminate a broader transcolonial history of domestic work.


We are grateful to the archives, museums, libraries and individuals who have generously shared items from their collections for this exhibition. We would also like to thank the University of Newcastle for providing the funds that made this exhibition possible.


We hope you have enjoyed your visit.

Professor Victoria Haskins

ProfESSOR Victoria Haskins

Lead Chief Investigator

 University of Newcastle, Australia

Professor Swapna Banerjee

Professor Swapna Banerjee

Partner Investigator

Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

Assistant Professor Claire Lowrie

A/ProfessorClaire Lowrie

Chief Investigator

University of Wollongong, Australia

Dr Lauren Samuelsson

Dr Lauren Samuelsson

Website Developer and Exhibition Curator

University of Wollongong, Australia

Srishti Guha

Srishti Guha

Research Assistant

University of Newcastle, Australia

Your thoughts

A beautifully designed exhibition featuring a fascinating variety of material culture. The colour and abundance almost obscures the hard work that went into uncovering this history of the lives of working women who were central to family life but who only left traces in the archives. Congratulations to the team.

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

I'm really impressed by this wonderful project and website that puts the spotlight on the lives and labours of these too often forgotten women. My mother-in-law was a little girl in India at the time of partition. She had a close relationship with her ayah and was very sad to be separated from her when the family moved to Australia. I've sent her a link to the website so she can enjoy the memories and reflect on her own experience. Congratulations on the fruits of your research.

Dr Juanita Kwok

Beautifully done - fascinating material, very well presented.

Wilfrid Prest

Such a beautiful presentation. I thought of my father's family in India my grandmother had 9 children in the 1920s she must have had ayahs to help her but there are none in any photographs -only images of a male driver and a young 'chokri'.I don't know how g'mother would have survived without help.They were railway people in what were the Central Indian Provinces - far from the metropole. Thank you for sharing this fascinating project.

deborah nixon

Fascinated by the varied experiences of colonial times. I had an ayah as I was born in 1928 in British India, Bombay Presidency (now Maharashtra) in Dhond near Poona. Lived in Baramati village. I was thoroughly spoilt. Arrived in Australia with my missionary parents in 1932.

Ian Morris Hughes

I love the catalogue too!

Victoria Haskins

An impressive piece of research - thank you for providing such a vibrant model of an online historical exhibition that foregrounds intellectual themes, uses affective evidence, and signals a way of sharing history writing, research and interpretations of the past to a wider audience. It would be wonderful to see the exhibition reviewed and also for it to be archived and usable for teaching beyond its end-date. Congratulations to the all-woman team!

Catharine Coleborne

We are really looking forward to hearing back from visitors to our exhibition. What questions did it spark for you, that we can investigate as we continue our research into the history of these fascinating women workers? What stories and memories would you like to share?

Victoria Haskins


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