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Taking Assimilation to Heart

Marriages of White Women and Indigenous Men in the United States and Australia, 1887-1937

Katherine Ellinghaus

Publication Year: 2006

Taking Assimilation to Heart examines marriages between white women and indigenous men in Australia and the United States between 1887 and 1937. In these settler societies, white women were expected to reproduce white children to keep the white race “pure”--hence special anxieties were associated with their sexuality, and marriages with indigenous men were rare events. As such, these interracial marriages illuminate the complicated social, racial, and national contexts in which they occurred.

This study of the ideological and political context of marriages between white women and indigenous men uncovers striking differences between the policies of assimilation endorsed by Australia and those encouraged by the United States. White Australians emphasized biological absorption, in which indigenous identity would be dissolved through interracial relationships, while white Americans promoted cultural assimilation, attempting to alter the lifestyles of indigenous people rather than their physical appearance. This disparity led, in turn, to differing emphases on humanitarian reforms, education policies, and social mobility, which affected the social status of the white women and indigenous men who married each other.

Shifting from the personal to the local to the transnational, Taking Assimilation to Heart extends our understanding of the ways in which individual lives have been part of the culture of colonialism.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-viii

I have had tremendous support while writing this book, which began as a doctoral thesis. The History Department at the University of Melbourne provided an enriching environment in which to learn the practice of history. I thank my supervisor, Patricia Grimshaw, for generously sharing her ideas, for expressing her faith in my ability, and for being...

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pp. ix-xxxiv

When white, middle-class schoolteacher Elaine Goodale made the decision to marry Dakota doctor Charles Eastman in 1891, she did so, she later remembered, with “a thrilling sense of two-fold consecration.” Eastman was aware that her marriage was more than simply the natural consequence of strong feelings between a young man and woman. It was...

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1. Native American Education and Marriages at Hampton Institute

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pp. 1-23

Samuel Chapman Armstrong founded Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia in 1868 to instruct newly freed African American children according to an ideology ruled by three principles: the “gospel of work,” “the demand of unselfish love,” and the doctrine of Protestant Christianity. Although Armstrong had never intended the school to...

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2. Interracial Marriages of Male Carlisle Indian School Alumni

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pp. 25-40

When John Walker Labatte, a Lakota man, married a white girl from Minneapolis in 1910, it was unusual enough an event for it to be reported in a local newspaper. The author of the brief article entitled “Indian and Caucasian Wed” refused, however, to sensationalize the story. “Reporters,” he or she wrote, “are wont to make up a very romantic story of such...

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3. Educated Native American Men and Interracial Marriage

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pp. 41-79

In 1889 Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas Morgan advocated a scheme that would help Native Americans who were “endowed with [a] special capacity” to undertake higher education. “There is an imperative necessity for this, if the Indians are to be assimilated,” Morgan told the Lake Mohonk Conference. “There is an urgent need among them for...

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4. A Middle-Class White Woman Philanthropist and Interracial Marriage

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pp. 81-104

During the nineteenth century, when the industrialization of American society meant that white men were spending more and more time away from their homes and families, a new image of American womanhood was born. White women were seen as purer, more pious, and gentler than their husbands, and they were expected to safeguard the morality of the...

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5. The Broken Promise of Aboriginal Education in Australia

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pp. 105-119

During a period similar to the one discussed in the previous chapters in the United States, from the 1880s to the 1930s white Australian settlers also attempted to find a solution to the problem of the presence of the original owners of the land. Despite the fact that their settlement was younger and until 1901 was still a British colony, a similar environment...

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6. Regulating Aboriginal Marriages in Victoria

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pp. 121-147

In many ways, this book is about how the concept of assimilation was unstable and how it could shift meaning according to time, place, and individual. In this chapter I examine, at a local level, the ways in which some white Australians tried to solve their “Aboriginal problem” and the impact of that solution on attitudes toward interracial marriages of...

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7. White Women Married to Aboriginal Men

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pp. 149-166

In 1900 an Australian book of marital advice reminded its white, middle- class readers about the importance of carefully selecting a husband. “A young woman in search of a partner in life,” the author declared, “if she is the worthy, prospective wife and mother to whom these pages are specifically dedicated . . . is not likely to mate herself with a member of...

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8. Solving the “Indian Problem” in the United States

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pp. 167-187

The lives of people such as Charles, Elaine, Carlos, Marie, Ethel, Jimmy, Rebecca, and Jack were unusual. In the most fundamental of ways, they allowed their hearts to lead them across the social boundaries of their time. In doing so, they left clues for the historian to follow about the society in which they lived. I turn now to the broader contexts in which...

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9. Absorbing the “Aboriginal Problem” in Australia

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pp. 189-212

What did the word assimilation really mean to white Australians when they referred to Aboriginal people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? What future did they imagine for the original owners of the continent? In previous chapters, I have argued that cultural assimilation was in most instances nothing more than a broken promise made to...

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pp. 213-220

Even in twenty-first-century Australia it is difficult to imagine an Australian prime minister telling an Aboriginal leader that he wished he had indigenous ancestry, as Charles Eastman claimed President Roosevelt once did. White Europeans settled in North America and Australia with the same disdain for the rights of the indigenous owners of the...

Source Acknowledgments

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pp. 221


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pp. 223


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pp. 223-253

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 255-270


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pp. 271-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780803257351
E-ISBN-10: 080325735X

Publication Year: 2006