The 'imperial' girl: Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the imperial woman and her imperial childhood

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    This article examines the role played by 'imperial girls': daughters of vice-regal representatives, consuls and ambassadors despatched by British governments to represent its interests in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras. Little is known about children's responses to their imperial childhoods and they are rarely considered in transnational and imperial history. It is argued that imperial girls had a more influential and practical education than their brothers who were often absent from the family circle at boarding school. Although they did not have formal educational opportunities, girls remaining with their families learned much more about the imperial mission, about how to act within the imperial space, and the expectations placed on imperial women through the organisational impulse of philanthropy, social reform and the transnational commodity of the imperial feminist mission. This article assesses the possible impact imperial childhoods had on later imperial women using one case study: that of Lady Helen Munro Ferguson [later Viscountess Novar]. She spent a large portion of her own childhood in imperial circles and was later an imperial woman in her own right as the Governor-General's wife in Australia between 1914 and 1920, and the founder of the Australian Red Cross.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)513-525
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Australian Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


    • Girlhood studies
    • Imperial feminism
    • Philanthropy
    • Transnational history


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