Friday, November 19, 2010

The following is the text of a letter written by Agnes Bickerstaff, daughter of Hannah.   She was age 31 at the date this letter was written.  What makes this letter so poignant to me is that Agnes seems to have considered Miss Rye a mother figure - the only one she'd ever known, orphaned as she was by age 3, raised in the Workhouse and sent to Canada with other orphans from the Workhouse at approximately age 14.  Although she seems to have become a self-reliant woman who supported herself all her life, she obviously still felt the lack of a mother.  Miss Rye sent hundreds of young children to Canada...I doubt she had much of a personal connection to any of them.

LETTER from Agnes Bickerstaff to Miss Rye:

1889 [Miss Rye] Annual Report - Letters
New York, U.S., Sept. 1889

Dear Miss Rye,

Have you another lot of girls over yet? If so, will you please write and tell Mrs. G.; she wants one about fifteen or seventeen years old, a good healthy honest girl. I know she will have a good home, and the best of care if she is sick, and she will never want for anything if she behaves herself. Now my business is done, I will tell you a little about myself. I am well and have plenty of work. You do not know how much good your last letter done me, it is so nice to feel you have someone who has confidence in you.

How I should like to see you; I look at your picture almost every day, it was so kind of you to send me one. My friend Mrs. T., wanted me to ask you if you would send her one; she was E.B.* before her marriage.

I hope you are well, and wish very much indeed that I could see you. My brother has been very sick with exema in his face, but he is getting better now, he sends his best respects to you. Hoping it is not too much if you would write me once in a while, if only a few lines. I remain,

Yours respectfully,


[Notes added to report by Miss Rye:] This girl came from Thame Workhouse in 1873*-- also *E.B.
The brother alluded to followed his sister, on account of the pleasant letters she wrote him.

*E.B. is Emma Baldwin, who was Agnes' friend from the Workhouse, and who went to Canada the same time as Agnes.

*date is wrong---not 1873, should be 1872 [when Agnes went to Canada]