By Rosie Cox
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Additional info for Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context: Sisters or Servants?
A heated debate in the press focused on the unnecessary need for importing foreign maids. 8 Questions were asked in parliament where the issue of the number of foreign girls allowed into the country was often seen in correlation with the number of British women receiving unemployment benefit. 9 The entry of foreigners for employment, including domestic service, was allowed upon receipt of a permit that was usually issued for no longer than one year but could be renewed at the end of that period.
Some politicians went even further and presented this as ‘a regular system of intensive propaganda training in Germany for these girls, who are sent to this country for ‘Pink Slave’ or the ‘Modern Young Woman’? ’14 The history of British refugee policy during that period is complex but also relevant. Tony Kushner has argued that the arrival of around 20,000 Jewish domestic servants into Britain in the 1930s reveals that government policy, although mostly determined by economic considerations, was also marked by a certain degree of flexibility and humanitarian impulses (Kushner, 1991, p 560).
This aspect of the history of the au pair forms the background to the 1969 au pair agreement, which aimed to offer au pairs social protection. 22 Eleni Liarou The history of the life and work of young women away from home – and of public concern for their welfare – can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. In 1882, the Young Women’s Christian Association opened the ‘Travellers’ Friendly’: three bedrooms and a sitting-room close to Paddington station. In 1884 a conference ‘on the need of protection and warnings’ led to the formation of the Travellers’ Aid Society in England and Scotland, with 17 women’s societies represented on its committee.
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