Margaret Jacobs, professor of history and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, won the Bancroft Prize for her book White Mother to a Dark Race, an investigation of the U.S. and Australian policies of breaking up indigenous families and removing children to be raised in boarding schools run by whites. She has also published a second volume based on her research. A Generation Removed looks at indigenous child removal policies from just after World War II up until passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978.
ICTMN interviewed Jacobs about her work. “When I got to Australia [to begin research] it was shortly after the ‘Bringing them home’ report  had come out about the stolen generation [of Australian Aborigine children]. When I went to the archives, I asked, ‘What were white women doing about indigenous children? Were they involved in this policy of the stolen generation?’”
She very quickly discovered that they were. “I was surprised that they were involved because this was an era when white women worldwide were talking about themselves as wanting to extend their maternal instincts and impulses into the world at large. So I assumed these women would be supporting indigenous motherhood and supporting the rights of indigenous women to keep their children.”
But instead, white women “really thought that indigenous women didn’t mother properly. They worked to some extent on trying to teach indigenous women how they thought they should be taking care of their children and carrying out their domestic duties. But many of them believed when there was resistance that the only way to raise children properly was to take them away from the environment of their mothers and cultures.”
Coming back to the U.S., she asked the same question and found that “many white women were involved in even a more pronounced manner in the United States than in Australia. They were involved in creating policy and were even hired by the federal government to carry out the policy of removing indigenous children.”