Gender, race and colonial identity : women and eugenics in New Zealand, 1918-1939.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The very general nature of eugenics allowed many diverse groups and individuals, that on the surface had little in common, to form alliances along eugenic lines. Social and moral reformers, politicians, scientists, academics and medical authorities were among the many supporters of eugenics. This thesis traces the participation of the National Council of Women, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, and the Women's Division of the Farmers' Union, as well as female government officials and professional women who as teachers, doctors, nurses, writers, and feminists acted to produce a gendered and raced discourse of eugenics in interwar New Zealand. At the same time, it is argued that New Zealand was not merely a consumer of eugenics, as eugenics was expressed in Britain, but that it was adapted to the geographical and metaphorical spaces of New Zealand. Further, New Zealand eugenics was re-represented in its colonial form, with an emphasis on environmental reform, to Britain. Meanwhile, New Zealand's dawning nationalism saw it turn to countries beyond Britain for alternative models of eugenics, to construct and develop a New Zealand eugenics relative to the geographical, racial, economic and political terrain of the country. This thesis suggests that overseas models and influences contributed to a making of a colonial eugenics, where a distinctive New Zealand voice and anxieties were present It is also suggested that what has been written about eugenics has neglected the colonial setting and has often viewed eugenics as a monolithic discourse that was culturally and geographically invariant. In short, this thesis deals not only with gender but also with the themes of race and colonial identity, arguing that like feminism, eugenics is subject to historical specificity.