'Wanted! A Real White Australia': The women's movement, whiteness and the settler-colonial project
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This chapter examines some of the new roles being claimed by white women in the settler colonial project of 'White Australia' in the early twentieth century. Focusing on the activities of the National Council of Women, then the country's largest womens group, and some prominent women reformers, it explores how ideas about race and nation, particularly the desire for a large and health white population to secure the country's future, animated many of their projects. While exhibiting little interest in the 'Aboriginal problem', or the 'peril' of Asian immigration, their extensive campaigns aroung white racial betterment reveal an enthusiastic promotion of eugenics and racialized identifications. From early in the twentieth century 'mental deficiency' in particular was identified as on of the greatest threats to the future of the white race and an issue that needed urgent attention. Women's organizations advocated strong measures to combat this 'menace' - including segregating such unfit bodies into 'farm colonies' or other institutions, along with sterilization, to prevent their 'propagation'. At the same time they promoted women's work as essential in effecting these reforms. More significantly, as the opening quotations illustrate, their campaigns demonstrate how the'race problem' in early twentieth-century Australia was frequently conceived entirely in terms of white racial health.