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Crinoline Cargo - The Bride Ship Girls

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Crinoline Cargo - The Bride Ship Girls

The arrival in 1862 of a ship full of single women eased the hearts of British Columbia’s lovesick bachelors — and lined the pockets of B.C.’s future premier.

From a piece written by Terri Hunter — January 10, 2016

“The girls are coming! The girls are coming! They'll be here any day!” So screamed the headlines of Victoria's British Colonist in September of 1862. The Tynemouth, forever after known as the “bride ship” was on its way. For Colonist publisher Amor De Cosmos — a man with a strong sense of the ridiculous who would eventually go on to become British Columbia's second premier — it was a perfect opportunity to attract male readers, not to mention advertisers.

Whatever became of the bride-ship girls?

Only half of the sixty young women aboard the Tynemouth have been traced by historians, and, as could be expected in the raucous frontier days of British Columbia, their lives varied enormously.

The aim of this project is to record as many of those young women as we can and discover what their lives became. If your ancestor was one of these girls please add them to the project.

Louisa Townsend spoke for many when she said, years later, that she “happily took to husband, housework, and babies with no regrets.” She and her sister brought Victoria its first piano and first sewing machine.

Besides farming with their husbands and children, many of the women became midwives and teachers to the new communities they helped found. It is said of Tynemouth passenger Isabel Robb that she never lost a mother or child in all her years of midwifery in the Comox Valley.

Mary Macdonald, with a widowed mother and three sisters to support, is credited with inspiring Victoria’s love of music. She was much in demand to sing at parties and weddings, and, at one time or another, she played the Sunday organ for most of Victoria’s hastily erected churches. Years later she married Peter Leech, a one-time gold miner who was by then Victoria’s respectable city engineer.

Jane Saunders fulfilled her dream of riches, parlaying her late husbands biscuit company into a business empire with the help of her seven children. This led local wags to call their home the Cracker Castle.

The beautiful Isabel Curtis was married at fifteen and whisked away to a cabin on the dark forested shores of what is now the town of Chemainus on Vancouver Island. Her arranged marriage eventually left her a young widow with several children and at the mercy of those who wanted her land. Eventually, she settled happily near Jane Nesbitt, a fellow bride-ship girl, in Victoria. Like many of the girls, she was helped over the years by the Royal Navy and the citizens of Victoria, who always took care of the bride-ship girls who had won their hearts.

Crinoline Cargo

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