Miss Rye's Western Home from Illustrated London News, 1877
THE EMIGRANT GIRLS HOME IN CANADA
[EDITORS NOTE: This is an invaluable "I was there" description by an, admittedly, biased correspondent, but it still allows the modern reader to glimpse into Maria Rye's Western Receiving Home building at Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario.]
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 hundred 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 season 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, it not architecturally attractive, yet with its deep verandas 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 hundred-weights 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 have usually 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 not 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 this 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 homes for them and keep up also a careful systematic supervision over them for many years. Miss Rye has done wonders; her energy and enthusiastic devotion to her self-imposed 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 his senses ever expected that these waits 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 work house and then let anyone ask himself whether the lot of at least nine tenths of them is not immeasurably better now."
jalousie = a blind or shutter made of a row of angled slats to keep out rain etc. and control the influx of light. [French (as jealousy)]