Wives and mothers like ourselves? Exploring white women's intervention in the politics of race, 1920s-1940s

Alison Holland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper takes the issue of the removal of Aboriginal children, and the broader white anxiety over the 'half-caste problem' which underpinned the policy, to explore white women reformers' intervention in the politics of race in the years 1920-40. In these years middle-class women's citizenship was based on maternalism and the defence of motherhood. At the same time the national feminist lobby, the Australian Federation of Women Voters, joined the public debate about the 'Aboriginal problem'. In this context it is necessary to ask: What was the feminist view of Aboriginal women's status? Were they considered 'wives and mothers' like themselves, as Louisa Lawson suggested in the 1890s? What was their view of the 'half-caste problem' and the 'absorption proposal' formulated to solve it? By asking such questions I hope to modify the current feminist historiographical view of white women reformers as 'pro-Aboriginal' and 'radical' and their policies as challenging White Australia in these years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-310
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Volume32
Issue number117
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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