Authors

Laura Rademaker

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

This article will consider how single missionary women of the Church Missionary Society in Arnhem Land in the early twentieth century established themselves as mothers of Aboriginal people. It opens with a discussion of how fears of imperial decline shaped expectations of motherhood. British women were to ensure the future of 'the race' through motherhood. It then discusses the evangelical belief in children's need for special attention with regards to the widespread understanding of Australian Aborigines as a 'child race'. Finally, the article looks at contemporary discourses of adoption. The article concludes that missionary work presented single women with an opportunity to express maternal care according to white, evangelical values. In their attempts to fulfil the role of the caring, Christian mother, however, the single women delegitimised Aboriginal motherhood. Despite good intentions, missionaries established their alternative family at the expense of Aboriginal families.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

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