The West Indies Royal Commission report’s critique of female sexual activity and male irresponsibility, and its emphasis on the social and psychological as well as moral and economic consequences of parental choices, represented the acme of progressive British thinking on race and gender in its day. The perspective, as we have seen, was not limited to metropolitan elites. An “interest… in Social questions” was the common denominator of testimony from “people of all colours and classes” before the WIRC. To hold that black children had the same intellectual, moral, emotional, and psychological complexity as white ones brought colonized populations fully into the educationalist and communitarian discourse that sociology and social work had built around poverty in Britain in the previous generation. The disavowal of racial thinking was the wave of the future. Socialization, not eugenic inheritance, was the thing, and research on family sponsored by the Colonial Social Science Research Council in the 1950s would birth a half-century of academic debate over Caribbean kinship.87
Yet the prejudices that exited through the door reentered through the window. Following the lead of Crowdy and Blacklock in applying to West Indian homes the latest scientific notions of child welfare, human development, and culturally sensitive international public health work, the WIRC radically elevated the significance of the domestic sphere. It also stigmatized in new ways those whose domestic arrangements diverged from middle-class Euro-American norms. Crucially erased from the equation were the denunciations of racialized geopolitics, individual white racism, and workforce discrimination that had been fused with maternalist uplift in the interwar black press.
The move toward to culturalist explanations, with scant attention to the systematicity of power, would prove typical of mainstream postwar social science. The WIRC report captured the shifting zeitgeist of educated international public opinion as it moved away from scientific racism and toward social psychology as framework for understanding difference and guiding policy. Child-rearing mattered deeply within this new framework, and “damage imagery” stressing the emotional and characterological wounds of marginalized youth could spur significant social reform.88 But it came at a heavy cost.
In the 1950s, the British Caribbean colonies saw the colonial government sponsor education, home outreach, and community development as never before. Just as the WIRC commissioners (and West Indian women activists like Amy Bailey and Una Marson) had advocated, Afro-descended women were prominent as both executors and targets of the new programs. There was so much that needed to be taught. Proper motherhood and fatherhood demanded emotional self-discipline, creative stimulation, and role models as well as the more mundane matters of hygiene and feeding. Appropriate discipline of the growing child was a particularly vexed challenge in a home with no resident father, social workers insisted. Only with external help to learn self-control would children become apt consumers, steady employees, and citizens ready for the challenge of self-government.
These assumptions about the cultural coordinates of responsible citizenship, and its necessary anchor in particular domestic practices, guided the formation of the state apparatus (in housing, education, public health, child protection, labor and pension laws, and justice and incarceration) that each Caribbean colony would carry with it into nationhood in the 1960s. The impact of this institutional and ideological legacy on the contours of belonging in the emergent nations has yet to be fully questioned.89
Allman, Jean. “Making Mothers: Missionaries, Medical Officers and Women's Work in Colonial Asante, 1924-1945.” History Workshop 38 (1994): 23-47.
Altink, Henrice. Destined for a Life of Service: Defining African-Jamaican Womanhood, 1865-1938. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011.
Ashton, S.R. and S.E. Stockwell, eds. Imperial Policy and Colonial Practice, 1925-1945, Part II: Economic Policy, Social Policies and Colonial Research. London: HMSO, 1996.
Barrow, Christine. Family in the Caribbean: Themes and Perspectives. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1996.
Blacklock, Mary G. “Certain Aspects of the Welfare of Women and Children in the Colonies.” Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 30, no. 2 (1936): 221-264.
Blacklock, Mary. “Co-operation in Health Education.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 4, no. 2. (1931): 202-208.
Bourbonnais, Nicole. “Class, Colour and Contraception: The Politics of Birth Control in Jamaica, 1938-1967.” Social and Economic Studies 61, no. 3 (2012): 7-38.
Bourbonnais, Nicole. “Dangerously Large: The 1938 Labor Rebellion and the Debate over Birth Control in Jamaica.” New West Indian Guide 83, no. 1&2 (2009): 39-69.
Bourbonnais, Nicole. “Out of the Boudoir and into the Banana Walk: Birth Control and Reproductive Politics in the West Indies, 1930-1970.” PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 2013.
Burton, Antoinette. “Contesting the Zenana: The Mission to Make ‘Lady Doctors’ for India, 1874-1885.” Journal of British Studies 35, no. 3 (1996): 368-397.
Burton, Antoinette. Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Bush, Barbara. “Colonial Research and the Social Sciences at the End of Empire: The West Indian Social Survey, 1944–57.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 41, no. 3 (2013): 451-474.
Chamberlain, Mary. “Small Worlds: Childhood and Empire.” Journal of Family History 27, no. 2 (2002): 186-200.
Chamberlain, Mary. Family Love in the Diaspora: Migration and the Anglo-Caribbean Experience. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006.
Crowdy, Rachel E. “The Humanitarian Activities of the League of Nations.” Journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs 6, no. 3 (1927): 153-169.
Davin, Anna. “Imperialism and Motherhood.” History Workshop 5 (Spring, 1978): 9-65.
De Barros, Juanita. “‘Improving the Standard of Motherhood’: Infant Welfare in Post-Slavery British Guiana.” In Health and Medicine in the Caribbean: Historical Perspectives, edited by Juanita De Barros, Steve Palmer, and David Wright, 165-194. New York: Routledge, 2009.
De Barros, Juanita. “‘A Laudable Experiment’: Infant Welfare Work and Medical Intermediaries in Early Twentieth-century Barbados.” In Public Health in the British Empire: Intermediaries, Subordinates, and Public Health Practice, 1850-1960, edited by Amna Khalid and Ryan Johnson, 100-120. New York: Routledge, 2011.
De Barros, Juanita. Reproducing the British Caribbean: Sex, Gender, and Population Politics after Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming.
Digby, Anne and John Stewart, eds. Gender, Health and Welfare. London: Routledge, 1996.
Donnell, Alison. “Una Marson: Feminism, Anti-colonialism and a Forgotten Fight for Freedom.” In West Indian Intellectuals in Britain, edited by Bill Schwarz, 114-131. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003.
Fraser, Cary. “The Twilight of Colonial Rule in the British West Indies: Nationalist Assertion vs Imperial Hubris in the 1930s.” Journal of Caribbean History 30, nos. 1/2 (1996): 1-27.
French, Joan. “Colonial Policy Towards Women After the 1938 Uprising: The Case of Jamaica,” Caribbean Quarterly 34, nos. 3-4 (1988): 38-61.
Gregg, Veronica Marie. “‘How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea’: The Writings of Miss Amy Beckford Bailey as Moral Education in the Era of Jamaican Nation Building.” small axe 23 (2007): 16-33.
Jamaica Save the Children Fund, JSCF 50th anniversary 1938-1988. Kingston, 1988. [Jamaican National Library, Pamphlets].
James, Winston. Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America. New York: Verso, 1998.
Jarrett-Macauley, Delia. The Life of Una Marson, 1905-65. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010.
Johnson, Howard. “The Political Uses of Commissions of Enquiry (1): The Imperial—Colonial West Indies Context the Forster and Moyne Commissions.” Social and Economic Studies 27, no. 3 (1978): 256-283.
Johnson, Howard. "The West Indies and the Conversion of the British Official Classes to the Development Idea." Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 15, no. 1 (1977): 55-83.
Lathrop, Julia C. “International Child Welfare Problems.” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science in the City of New York 12, no. 1, International Problems and Relations (1926): 418-423.
Lawrence, Jon and Pat Starkey, eds. Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001.
Macpherson, Anne S. "Colonial Matriarchs: Garveyism, Maternalism, and Belize's Black Cross Nurses, 1920-1952." Gender and History (2003): 507-527.
Makin, William James. Caribbean Nights. London: R. Hale, 1939.
Metzger, Barbara. “Towards an International Human Rights Regime During the Interwar Years: The League of Nations’ Combat of Traffic in Women and Children.” In Beyond Sovereignty: Britain, Empire and Transnationalism, c. 1880-1950, edited by Kevin Grant and Philippa Levine, 54-79. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007.
Michel, Sonya and Seth Koven, eds. Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Mitchell, Michele. Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Moore, Brian L. and Michele A. Johnson. Neither Led nor Driven: Contesting British Cultural Imperialism in Jamaica, 1865-1920. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2004.
Paisley, Fiona. “Childhood and Race: Growing Up in the Empire.” In Gender and Empire, edited by Philippa Levine, 240-259. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Pedersen, Susan. “The Maternalist Moment in British Colonial Policy: The Controversy over 'Child Slavery' in Hong Kong 1917-1941.” Past & Present 171 (2001): 161-202.
Platt, Raye R. “Economic and Social Problems in the British West Indies: A Review.” Geographical Review 30, no. 4 (Oct., 1940): 672-675.
Putnam, Lara. “Caribbean Kinship from Within and Without.” History Workshop Journal 66 (2008): 279-288.
Putnam, Lara. ““Citizenship from the Margins: Vernacular Theories of Rights and the State from the Interwar Caribbean.” Journal of British Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 162-191.
Putnam, Lara. The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
Putnam, Lara. "'Nothing Matters But Color': Transnational Circuits, the Interwar Caribbean, and the Black International." In From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International and the Struggle for Liberation, edited by Michael D. West, William G. Martin, and Fanon Che Wilkins, 107-129. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
Putnam, Lara. Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
Putnam, Lara. “To Study the Fragments/Whole: Microhistory and the Atlantic World." Journal of Social History 39, no. 3 (2006): 615-630.
Reddock, Rhoda. Women, Labour and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Kingston: Ian Randle, 1994.
Scott, Daryl Michael. Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
Simey, Thomas S. Welfare and Planning in the West Indies. London: Oxford University Press, 1946.
Smith, R.T. “Family, Social Change, and Social Policy in the West Indies,” Nieuwe West-Indische Gids: New West Indies Guide 56, nos. 3-4 (1982): 111-142.
Smith, Rennie. “International Conference on African Children.” Journal of the Royal African Society 30, no. 120 (1931): 272-276.
Stannard, Harold. “The West Indies.” In Fabian Colonial Essays, by H.N. Brailsford, A. Creech Jones, M. Fortes, et al., 202-214. London: George Allen Unwin, 1945.
Thomas, Deborah. Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
Thomas, Deborah. “The Violence of Diaspora: Governmentality, Class Cultures, and Circulations.” Radical History Review 103 (2009): 83-104.
Trotz, D. Alissa. “Behind the Banner of Culture: Gender, ‘Race,’ and the Family in Guyana.” Nieuwe West-Indische Gids: New West Indies Guide 77, nos. 1-2 (2003): 5-29.
Turshen, Meredeth. “Reproducing Labor: Colonial Government Regulation of African Women’s Reproductive Lives.” In The Demographics of Empire: The Colonial Order and the Creation of Knowledge, edited by Karl Ittmann, Dennis D. Cordell, and Gregory H. Maddox, 217-244. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010.
United States. Children’s Bureau. Thirteenth Annual Report of the Chief of the Children’s Bureau to the Secretary of Labor, 1925. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1925.
Vassell, Linnette. “Colonial Gender Policy in Jamaica.” In Before and After 1865: Education, Politics and Regionalism in the Caribbean, edited by Brian Moore and Swithin Wilmot, 190-201. Kingston: Ian Randle, 1998.
West India Royal Commission Report. Cmd. 6607. London: HMSO, 1945.
1I am grateful to Juanita De Barros, William French, Alissa Trotz, the special issue editors, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on earlier versions of this essay.
Barrow, Family in the Caribbean; Bush, “Colonial Research”; Chamberlain, “Small Worlds”; Chamberlain, Family Love; Smith, “Family, Social Change, and Social Policy”; French, “Colonial Policy Towards Women.”
2 E.g., Simey, Welfare and Planning.
3 De Barros, “Improving the Standard”; De Barros, “A Laudable Experiment.”
5 “A Reply to Audacity,” (Limón) Searchlight, August 23, 1930, 3.
6 See James, Holding Aloft the Banner; Putnam, Radical Moves; Putnam, “Citizenship from the Margins.”
7 Lawrence and Starkey, Child Welfare; Davin, “Imperialism and Motherhood,” 89. On Caribbean echoes, see Altink, Destined for a Life of Service, Ch. 3; De Barros, “Improving the Standard of Motherhood”; De Barros, “A Laudable Experiment.”
8 Davin, “Imperialism and Motherhood,” 90.
9 Paisley, “Childhood and Race”; Putnam, “Nothing Matters But Color.”
10 “Salary of Our Elementary School Teachers,” Barbados Weekly Herald, March 1, 1919, p. 4.
12 Putnam, “To Study the Fragments/Whole.”
13 Putnam, Radical Moves; Putnam, Company They Kept, Ch. 5.
14 Hector Connor, “One Wish to Make,” in Isthmian Echoes, 28. First published Panama American, Christmas 1927.
15 S.H. Whyte, “First Place,” in Isthmian Echoes, 19. First published Panama American Oct. 30, 1927.
16 “Where are your children,” (Limón) Searchlight, November 28, 1931, 1.
17 “New Year Celebration,” (Limon) Searchlight, January 11, 1930, 1.
19 Macpherson, "Colonial Matriarchs.”
20 Daily Chronicle, August 2, 1931, 3, 7. Text available at http://guygenbiosociety.blogspot.com/2006/07/tenth-annual-assembly-of-negro.html De Barros, Reproducing the Caribbean; Reddock, Women Labour & Politics, Ch. 6.
21 Altink, Destined for a Life of Service, Ch. 5; Mitchell, Righteous Propagation.
22 “A Word to My People,” Panama Tribune, January 6, 1929, 16.
23 Sidney Young, “Educating Our Women,” in Isthmian Echoes, 277-278.
24 Michel and Koven, Mothers of a New World; Digby and Stewart, Gender, Health and Welfare; Altink, Destined for a Life of Service.
25 “The Place of Woman,” (Limón) Searchlight, November 21, 1931, 4.
26 Reddock, Women, Labour and Politics, Ch. 6.
27 Linda Smart Chubb, “Will Trinidad Spurn the Call?” in Isthmian Echoes, 140. First published Panama American October 13, 1927.
29 Putnam, Radical Moves, Ch. 6.
30 National Archives of the UK, Colonial Office [henceforth, CO] 318/433/1, no. 8, rpt. in Ashton and Stockwell, Imperial Policy and Colonial Practice, 61. See Johnson, “Political Uses of Commissions”; Johnson, “West Indies”; Fraser, “Twilight of Colonial Rule.”
31 Burton, Burdens of History; Burton, “Contesting the Zenana.”
32 Pederson, “Maternalist Moment,” 196 et passim; Metzger, “International Human Rights”; Smith, “International Conference on African Children.”
33 CO 323/1090/1 (Colonial Development Public Health Committee: recommendations to Colonial Development Advisory Committee: 1930), Minutes; ibid., “Report of the Colonial Development Public Health Committee, July 1930.”
CO 859/77/11 (Maternity and Child Welfare, Women’s Services
, in the Colonies, and training of Personnel, for Report by Dr. Mary Blacklock: 1942). Blacklock published the report on her own in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s journal in 1936. Blacklock, “Certain Aspects of the Welfare of Women and Children.” See also Blacklock, “Co-operation in Health Education
”; Smith, “International Conference on African Children.”
36 Pederson, “Maternalist Moment,” 198; see also Allman, “Making Mothers.”
37 CO 318/433/1 (Proposed General Commission of Enquiry: 1938); Johnson, “Political Uses of Commissions,” 270-273.
38 Crowdy, “Humanitarian Activities,” 153-169; Pederson, “Maternalist Moment,” 188.
39 Lathrop, “International Cooperation,” 422. See also United States, Children’s Bureau, Thirteenth Annual Report, 35-38.
40 CO 318/433/1 (Proposed General Commission of Enquiry: 1938).
42 CO 318/434/7 (Miscellaneous Observations on West Indian Conditions: 1938); CO 950/56 (Mr. W Arthur Lewis, B Cam., Memorandum of Evidence: 1938); CO 318/446/10 (Comptroller’s Staff: Social Welfare: 1940); CO 950/44 (Mr. Marcus Garvey (Universal Negro Improvement Association), Memorandum of Evidence: 1938).
46 CO 950/24 (Harold Stannard Memorandum of Evidence: 1938), 39. See also Stannard, “The West Indies,” 202-214.
47 See also, among many, CO 950/8 (Memorandum of Evidence, Peggy Cox: 1938); CO 950/9 (Correspondence regarding visit of Major Orde Brown to West Indies: 1938); CO 950/11 (Memorandum of Evidence, Mrs. Hilda MacDonald: 1938); CO 318/434/7 (Miscellaneous Observations on West Indian Conditions: 1938).
48 Jamaica Save the Children Fund, JSCF 50th anniversary 1938-1988 (Kingston, 1988) [Jamaican National Library, Pamphlets].
49 Donnell, “Una Marson”; Jarrett-Macauley, Life of Una Marson.
50 CO 950/36 (Miss Una Marson: Memorandum of Evidence: 1938). Letter from Una Marson, Sept 13, 1938.
57 CO 950/31 (Miss Amy Bailey, Memorandum of Evidence: 1938).
59 Ibid., Transcript of testimony before the commission on September 20, 1938.
61 CO 950/36 (Miss Una Marson: Memorandum of Evidence: 1938), Transcript of testimony before the commission on September 30, 1938, 344.
62 Ibid., 347.
63 Ibid., 350.
64 Gregg, “Writings of Amy Bailey,” 23.
CO 950/42 (Social Services Etc; Memorandum by Dame Rachel Crowdy and Dr. Blacklock: 1938), Letter from Mary Blacklock
, September 17, 1938.
66 Ibid., Letter from Rachel Crowdy.
68 Pederson, “Maternalist Moment.”
69 CO 950/793 (Memorandum of Evidence: Coterie of Social Workers on Matters pertaining to the Welfare of Women and Children in the Colony (Trinidad): 1938). Excluded from the white-led charitable ladies’ event for Blacklock and Crowdy in Jamaica, black women welfare workers reached out separately, spurring public comment. See Altink, Destined for a Life of Service, 185-186.
70 CO 950/12 (Memorandum of Evidence: Mr P E Ely: 1938).
71 CO 950/16 (Sir Murchison Fletcher, Memorandum of Evidence: 1938).
72 CO 950/18 (Miss Briant (Carnegie training Center) Memorandum of Evidence: 1938). To her credit, Miss Briant hinted at a third option: “I think it is partly the slave mentality, but we have not encouraged them to do otherwise.”
73 Bourbonnais, “Dangerously Large”; Bourbonnais, “Class, Colour and Contraception.”
74 CO 950/279 (Population: Birth Control: 1938).
CO 950/86 (Joint Memorandum of Evidence by Mr. N W Manley
, Dr. W E McCullough, Mr. N N Nethersole, Mr. Graham Hawkins and Miss May Farquharson: 1938).
76 Ibid., 3. For context on each of these actors, see Bourbonnais, “Out of the Boudoir.”
77 Makin, Caribbean Nights, 88-93.
78 CO 950/86 (Joint Memorandum of Evidence by Mr. N W Manley, Dr. W E McCullough, Mr. N N Nethersole, Mr. Graham Hawkins and Miss May Farquharson: 1938).
79 Johnson, “Political Uses of Commissions”; Johnson, “West Indies.”
80 West India Royal Commission Report, 221.
81 Ibid., 217-240.
82 Ibid., 227.
84 CO 1042/163 (Education: Conference of British Missionary Societies. Comments on Recommendations of W.I. Royal Commission: 1940-1942), Letter from Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain and Ireland to Lord Lloyd, Secretary of State for the Colonies, September 2, 1940.
85 Platt, “Economic and Social Problems,” 673.
86 CO 318/444/6 (Royal Commission Report and Recommendations; Social Structure and Conditions: 1940), Initial correspondence.
87 See Smith, “Family, Social Change, and Social Policy”; French, “Colonial Policy Towards Women,” 199-201; Reddock, Women Labour & Politics, Ch. 8; Barrow, Family in the Caribbean; Chamberlain, “Small Worlds”; Putnam, “Caribbean Kinship”; Bush, “Colonial Research.”
88 Scott, Contempt and Pity.
89 See, importantly, Thomas, Modern Blackness; Trotz, “Behind the Banner of Culture”; Thomas, “Violence of Diaspora.”