School of Humanities and Social Science
HISTORY SEMINAR SERIES – 2009
Domestic geographies: the place of the Outing Matron in Tucson 1913-1935
Friday, 5 June
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)
Cultural Collections Reading Room (near the Information Common),
Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus
In the early years of the twentieth century, the Bureau of Indian Affairs began to promote the employment of young Native American women as domestic servants in white households across the Southwest of the United States. This assimilationist policy, extending the Outing program initiated by Colonel Pratt for Indian boarding school students in Pennsylvania in the 1880s, entailed the establishment of a new Indian Service position of Outing Matron. As Outing Matrons, a number of women would be made responsible for supervising and regulating the domestic labour of Native American women, their role in many respects an extension of the maternalist nineteenth-century matron program by which field matrons, visiting Indian homes and establishing their own amongst Native communities, were to impart to their native charges a domestic model of civilization. But the Outing matron’s role went further, in that her task was to oversee the placement of Native American women within the homes of white American women, negotiating these highly structured female relationships. This paper focuses on the Outing matrons who worked at Tucson, from the impulses and pressures leading to the first appointment of a designated Outing Matron here in 1915 to the abolishment of the appointment in the 1930s. Acting as intermediary between the white and the Tohono O’odham Indian women of Tucson, the Outing matron’s complex role was simultaneously mobile, contained, and liminal, played out on spatial as well as social levels.
Dr Victoria Haskins is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Newcastle. She has researched and published widely on the histories of Australian Aboriginal domestic service and relationships between white and Aboriginal women, and is currently researching a comparative historical study of Indigenous women’s domestic service in settler colonial societies, with the United States and Native American experience being a key focus. This paper presents findings from this research project.