THE MIKE STAMMERS MEMORIAL LECTURE 2023
The Mike Stammers Memorial Lecture will take place on Wednesday 24 May 2023 at 5.30pm at The Maritime Museum, Liverpool. This year’s lecture is:
RACE, GENDER AND CLASS: AYAHS AND AMAHS AS ‘WORKER-PASSENGERS’ IN BRITISH SHIPS 1890-1950
by Dr Jo Stanley, Honorary Research Fellow, Blaydes Maritime Centre, University of Hull, and Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Liverpool John Moores University.
New ideas about equality, diversity, and inclusion are enriching maritime historiography. Exploring transnational movement by a significant group of mobile subjects – Asian nannies – enables fresh understandings of how intersectionality worked on early 20C ships. Thousands of Indian ayahs and Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian amahs travelled round the British empire creating domestic comfort afloat as non-kin members of the Raj families they accompanied.
Voyages changed ayahs. In gendered, racialized and very hierarchical colonial times these non-white, poorly-educated, female domestic workers gained unusual mobility and motility. Conversely, ayahs’ status changed voyaging. For example, segregationist policies and practises led to ship’s architects creating ayahs’ bathrooms aboard.
This talk looks at ayahs and amahs as part of an under-researched group: worker-passengers. Neither seafarers nor passengers, such voyagers included maids, valets, bearers and governesses. Their subjective, segregated and exceptional experiences differed from those of maritime labourers directly employed by shipping companies, such as Lascars and white stewardesses who routinely serviced the vessel and processed multiple batches of human cargo respectively.
Ayahs’ own testimony is barely visible. But the quantitative evidence used here includes freshly-sorted data derived from passenger lists. This is triangulated with genealogical information about ayahs’ employers, travellers’ voyage descriptions, newspaper reports of ayah-related crime, and recent interviews with ayahs’ (now elderly) carees. The lenses used include those generated by the new international working party on ayahs and amahs, which contextualises them along with today’s airborne chattels.