Invisible Hands

The ayah is a familiar figure of the Raj. While new research shows they were much less common than once thought, it has also shed fresh light on their lives and experiences.

Children’s Christmas Dinner At Sea, illustration by G. Durand from The Graphic, 1889.
‘Children’s Christmas Dinner At Sea’, illustration by G. Durand from The Graphic, 1889.

Caroline Pereira was a frequent business traveller. For a woman and a low-status ‘native’, this was unusual. Pereira was an ayah. As a nanny and maid for British families coming ‘home’ on furlough or for good, she had unusual access to travel. 

Pereira’s voyage from Madras to England on the HMS Wellesley in 1849 was a challenge physically and a power battle socially with her employer, Dr James Darwood of the East India Company. 

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