The colonial household

ayahThey were women who cared for the children, were present in the family, travelled with them during the ocean voyage. Within the colonial household they were the most visible people in the background.

Servants. Always there. Always the other one. From India there came the ayahs, and from Indonesia the zeebaboes. Who were these women?

Dr Vilan van de Loo is searching for their life stories.

Just as there was a home for ayahs in London, the Hague also had a home for zeebaboes. Officially the accommodation was intended for ‘Native servants’, so for both women and men, but in practice there were more zeebaboes than djongossen staying in Persinggahan. A record was kept of information about these women, so it is possible to get to know the zeebaboes.

The London ‘Home of the ayahs‘ was opened in 1900, and the idea for Persinggahan was first thought of in 1902. A government subsidy for the home was only made available in 1918. Both homes were organised and led in accordance with Christian principles, whilst the residents were not Christians. The zeebaboes were presumably all Muslims. The idea behind both houses was identical: to offer care and accommodation to this group, and at the same time to exercise a sort of control over them. The motivation behind both homes was the same: these women were thought to be at the mercy of exploitation by unscrupulous employers. So the women needed to be ‘rescued’.

In 2018 I hope to publish a book about Persinggahan and where possible I will also devote my attention to the Home of the ayahs. Do you have any information, or do you know where it may be possible to find any? Do you know any descendants of the ayahs? Are there comparable homes in other colonial cultures? If you could be kind enough to email me I would be extremely grateful.

Vilan van de Loo (vilan@xs4all.nl)

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