by Ellen Scheinberg, historian
To entice women to emigrate to Canada, the Department of the Interior (it was responsible for immigration at that time) circulated propaganda in the form of posters, advertisements and pamphlets across the United Kingdom, trumpeting "Canada Wants Domestic Servants." One government pamphlet with this title, published in 1908, indicated that Canadian government agents had opportunities for 1,300 domestics in Ontario. Some ads also promised better prospects in Canada, downplaying the hours, the workload and the climate.
As well, the Department provided recruiters with the incentive of a bonus -- up to $5 for every immigrant brought into Canada for domestic service. Most often, these bonuses were offered to booking agents who worked for steamship companies, to emigration societies, and to other types of recruiting agencies. Some agencies recruited women from overseas -- to ensure that they were of strong constitution and of good character -- before bringing them to Canada. In addition to providing their medical certificate and references, these women were asked to sign agreements to work as domestics without wages for 12 months to pay off their travel expenses. Thus, they were brought into the country as indentured servants and were unable to leave their positions.
Once the women were signed up, the agents arranged to bring a group of them to Canada by ship. The groups were always brought over by a matron, who acted as a chaperone and was responsible for keeping the passengers safe during the voyage. It was the matron's job to protect the virtue of the young women who were expected to be both productive servants and, eventually, Canadian wives and mothers.
Once the women arrived safely at the port in Canada, they were herded onto a train and sent to their intended destinations. Various cities had women's homes and hostels, which provided room, board, protection and placement to the newly- arrived workers.