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 References
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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.”
4 Altink, Destined for a Life of Service; Moore and Johnson, Neither Led Nor Driven.
5 “A Reply to Audacity,” (Limón) Searchlight, August 23, 1930, 3.
6See 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.
18 “The Child Welfare Problem,” Panama Tribune, November 11, 1928, 14.
19 Macpherson, "Colonial Matriarchs.”
20Daily 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.”
35 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.
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).
43 CO 318/433/2 (Royal Commission: Miscellaneous, 1938-1939).
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.
65 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).
75 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.”
80West 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.”