2010

Authors

  • Rebekah Crow Rebekah Crow

This thesis is both an empirical history of white women in Queensland colonialism and a theoretical history of colonialism and imperialism in the late nineteenth century. It is a feminist history which seeks to fill the gap in our understanding of white women and 'race' in the contact zone in Queensland in the nineteenth century. At this level the thesis restores historical agency to women and reveals women's history as a powerful alternative to traditional colonial histories. It also positions this Queensland history within a global discourse of critical imperial histories that has emerged over the past decade, seeking to understand how British imperialism and Queensland colonialism shaped and informed each other in a two way process. The central themes of the thesis are 'race' and gender. I examine the ways in which white women deploy imperial ideologies of 'race' in the contact zone to position themselves as white women. 'Race' and gender are explored through the ways in which white women negotiated, in their writing, their relationships with Indigenous people and Pacific Islanders on the frontier and in the contact zone. The white women whose texts are examined in this thesis engaged with 'race' difference in their autobiographical accounts and these accounts, on many levels, allow us to rethink colonial history. I argue that colonialism is paradoxical and that white women experienced this colonial paradox in their daily lives and negotiated it in their writing. The white women whose writing is studied here were decent people with good intentions. They were simultaneously humanitarians (to differing degrees) and colonists. They were dependant for their livelihoods upon a violent colonisation and yet they were sympathetic to the Aboriginal people they interacted with. Often they were silenced in their opinions on the violence they witnessed. Writing was a means of navigating these contradictions. White women were in a relatively powerless position in the contact zone and there was little they could do to mitigate the violence that they saw. The tensions that resulted from living in the colonial paradox on frontiers and in the contact zone, of being a colonists and humanitarians, and of living in an uncontrollable existential situation is expressed in the writing of these women. This history offers us a more holistic understanding of the complexity of colonialism in Australia.