Thursday, 26 July 2007

"And so on..."

One of the few mentions in “The Long Farewell” of German migration is a comment on the difference between the gender segregated British ships and the German mixed-gender accommodation. An 1858 enquiry in Sydney as to conditions on board ship resulted in the testimony that mixed accommodation on board ship was extremely injurous to the “moral condition of the migrants.” According to Adolf Shadler, second mate on a German ship “I know for certain that every one [of the forty young girls on board] left the ship as a prostitute.” (p. 122)

Shadler further testified that the girls all belonged to families yet “all mingled on the ‘tween decks; there was no division…the girls used to dined with the sailors in the forecastle, and were constantly there, mending their clothes, and so on…”

The next question was whether the “effect was to demoralize them?”

Shadler affirmed this positively: “I know that four of those girls were common prostitutes in Adelaide.”

It is unclear if the demoralisation came from the moral depravity or the constant housework.

Charlwood quotes extensively from this enquiry but does not analyse these assertions, saying only that: “One cannot suppose that the results would have been any different on an unsegregated British ship. Incarcerate scores of men and women in a ship at sea for three or four months; subject them to fear of shipwreck; allow them no privacy and the outcome is easily predictable.” Charlwood adds that conditions and results were similar on the Atlantic run to the Australian. Apparently the Germans and Americans shared similar morals and disciplinary standards.

Thank goodness for the British.

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