Free
The Ayahs and Amahs Home, Hackney

The Ayahs and Amahs Home, Hackney

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Free

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Location

Hackney Museum

1 Reading Lane

London

E8 1GQ

United Kingdom

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Join us for this public talk exploring the lives of Ayahs and Amahs

About this event

Join us for this public talk exploring the lives of Ayahs and Amahs, many of whom lived at the Ayahs and Amahs Home on King Edward’s Road, Hackney (1900-1941), awaiting return journeys to Asia.

South Asian ‘ayahs’ and Chinese ‘amahs’ were domestic workers employed as child carers, nannies and wet nurses in private households in India, China and Southeast Asia during the British colonial period. Significant numbers of these women travelled with their employer families to Australia, Britain and Europe.

This event will explore how the Home was ‘discovered’ by historian Rozina Visram, share new and emerging research into the lives of the people who lived there and the experiences of Ayahs and Amahs across the globe. The event is also an opportunity to mark the initial Home in Hackney receiving a Blue Plaque from English Heritage in June 2022, recognising its historical significance.

Note: this is an in-person event and will not be recorded.

Speakers include:

Event Chair - Dr Shalini Grover

Shalini is an anthropologist who has been working on gender inequalities for over twenty years. She was previously Associate Professor in Anthropology at the Institute of Economic Growth (University of Delhi). Her current work is anthropological-historical in nature, looking at ayahs in post-independence India, studying post colonial legacies of care work in India as well as transnationally. She researches the mobility and lives of ayahs across time-zones and continents. ​ https://bit.ly/3v1t9AK

Campaigning for the Blue Plaque - Farhanah Mamoojee

Local activist Farhanah Mamoojee started the campaign to award an English Heritage Blue Plaque to the former site of the Ayahs Home in Hackney. Since beginning the project in October 2019 she has recorded her visual research on ayahs and amahs on Instagram (@ayahshome).

Journeys of Archival Discovery and The Ayahs’ Home - Rozina Visram

In her talk, Rozina Visram will reflect on her early archival research and how she ‘discovered’ the Ayahs’ Home and began to excavate the ayahs’ experiences of their stay in the Home. Rozina Visram is a distinguished historian and educationalist. Her major publications include Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain, 1700–1947 (Pluto, 1986; Routledge 2016), and Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (Pluto, 2002). She was advisor to the major AHRC project ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Broad’ (2007-10) and consultant on the follow-on project, ‘Beyond the Frame: Indian British Connections’. See https://www.bl.uk/asians-in-britain/about

Cultural Representations of the Ayah - Dr Florian Stadler

This illustrated talk will focus on how ayahs were represented in visual art and culture, and explore what role these images played in creating a particular view of the ayah in Britain. Florian Stadtler is Lecturer in Literature and Migration at the University of Bristol. He researches the history of South Asian Britain, especially settled working class communities of South Asian heritage in Britain, including South Asian seafarers, social and cultural activism and campaigns by and for South Asians in Britain, and South Asian involvement in both World Wars on the Home Front. See https://bit.ly/FlorianBristol

Arriving at this home-from-home between voyages - Dr Jo Stanley [pre-recorded talk]

Ayahs were the first brown business travellers when few women left home. Sometimes these ‘baby couriers’ sailed almost as often as Lascar sailors. This illustrated slide talk reveals the voyages from which these strangers’ – who were also British citizens - recovered in this complex Hackney haven. Creative historian and consultant Dr Jo Stanley (University of Hull) is an expert on diversity at sea in history, including ayahs' voyages. She welcomes contact from families who employed ayahs. For more on ayahs aboard see  https://bit.ly/ayahsaboard

Chinese Amahs in the Hackney Ayahs Home - Claire Lowrie [pre-recorded talk]

Much of our knowledge of the Ayahs Home has centred on the stories of South Asian women. But the home was also a place where women from Southeast Asia and East Asia resided. This talk explores experiences of Chinese amahs who came to the Hackney Ayahs Home from British Malaya, Hong Kong and the treaty ports of China. 

Claire Lowrie is a historian of domestic service in colonial Southeast Asia and part of a team historians uncovering the histories of Ayahs and Amahs who travelled across the British Empire. https://ayahsandamahs.com/

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