White Mother to a Dark Race
Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940
Historical accounts of the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities in Australia under colonial assimilation policies have proliferated over recent decades. Within the field, white feminist historiography has involved investigations of the function of gender, domestic space and intimate relations in the colonial enterprise. In this, it has often placed the problematic trope of the maternal as 'a central model of historical identity' (Moore 2000, 95). While similar histories exist in other settler-colonial nations, notably the United States and Canada, there has been relatively little comparative research. In White Mother to a Dark Race, Jacobs provides a substantial comparative account of the removal of indigenous children in North America and Australia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the period when this was a key government policy in both continents. She focuses on the gendered character of the policies and practices and the role of white women as agents of the state in the removal of children. In particular, Jacobs provides a critique of the discourse of maternalism in its various manifestations. In this task, she takes up a point raised in white feminist analysis that a 'disconcerting maternalism persists both in the context of academic theory and the practical politics of forging international alliances' (Jolly 1993, 104).