Ayahs were employed by British families to look after their children on the sea voyage home. On arrival in Britain, they were often discharged and left to find their own passage back to India. Such mistreatment led to the setting up of the Ayahs’ Home in Hackney, east London. The Home provided accommodation for ayahs awaiting their return engagement, as well as serving as a refuge for ill-treated and stranded ayahs.
This photograph shows the Ayahs’ Home in the primary stages of being run by the Foreigner’s Branch Committee of the London City Mission. It demonstrates how the ayahs passed their time while waiting for re-employment, taking up pastimes such as embroidery, reading and participation in organised activities. The presence of the women who stand in the background and appear to be supervising the ayahs highlights the ‘missionary culture’ surrounding the Ayahs’ Home.