Saturday, March 26, 2011

Women and 19th Century Imperialism

Becoming Visible chapter 14

Women helped to solidify colonialism (1850-WWII) by being teachers, nurses, missionaries, anthropologists, and the face of colonialism itself (mother country). The question is did the women who went to or were placed in imperial holdings supported or disrupted the goal of colonialism? Strobel discusses the practices surrounding mixed-race intercourse to which she notes that women stuck a blow to. In short, women threatened the traditional institution of concubinage, which supposedly represented the harmony between the colonizer and the colonized. They got rid of this unequal and unfair practice of, which hurt colonization from the point of the colonizer, but helped it in the eyes of the colonized.
She also discusses the belief in the destructive female who is dependent and therefore, unhelpful in advancing imperialism. Stobel refutes this myth by noting that women creating the social life and boundaries that existed in the colonies, though their ability to do so was restricted by their husband’s position and not by their own position. In short, whom they spoke to was defined by their husband’s position and not by their own choice, but despite these restraints, they laid the hierarchy that defined colonialism.
She also argues that women were essential to colonization because they helped establish its continuance because they contributed to the health and happiness of male officials and the European household in the colonies.

Gender: men passed decrees that banned women from participating in intercourse with indigenous men, but men were never banned legally.

White female domestic workers who went to the colonies were subject to the patriarchy beliefs of domestic work being women’s work, the imperialist idea of women spreading British values, and the patriarchal glorification of matrimony.

Women missionaries challenged cultural norms because they put family on hold for a career abroad; however, some also adopted native children, which fit nicely into the culturally role for women.

Women travelers and women missionaries challenged social norms and helped women become more domestic.

Women anthropologists contributed to the understanding of native peoples, but their work wasn’t looked on as highly because they were women. (title page)

Reformers argued against certain actions of colonialism and native tradition, and tried to get more women the vote – in the colonies and back home.

Education = women missionaries educated the native population in the ways of the homes



  1. Interesting emphasis on female missionaries as disruptive forces in imperialistic contexts. I wonder how female missionaries effect the cultural imperialism of Westernization and America in particular.

    Always nice to be reminded how essential ladies are to politics!

  2. I thought the part about concubinage was interesting. The argument that Strobel makes about how colonizing women disrupted male access to native concubines which in turn changed relationships with the natives makes sense. Without the "connection" with the natives, relationships with the Europeans would suffer. It seems like women were needed everywhere to maintain the patriarchal system that was so rigidly enforced back home.