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Victoria - Glossary Term

Female Rescue (1850s - 1960s)

Social Movement

'Female rescue homes' were first established in Victoria in the mid 1850s. These institutions were heavily influenced by British models, particularly the Magdalen Asylum in London, established in 1758. The female rescue movement was based on Evangelical Christian principles, and its aim was to reform 'fallen women' (women engaged in prostitution) through a combination of prayer and hard work. The operations of the female rescue homes in Victoria were not limited to the rescue of fallen women. Increasingly, these homes catered to single mothers and their babies. Some female rescue homes specialised in women with particular needs, such as alcohol and drugs, or women released from prison. Despite the evolution of this type of institution from the 1850s, the term 'female rescue home' was still in common use in Victoria in the mid-twentieth century.


Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Swain, Shurlee, 'Female rescue homes', in eMelbourne: the city past and present, The University of Melbourne, 2008,

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill