Revisiting Maternalism and Its Legacy: Gender, Power, Health Policy, and Place in the United States, 1912–55

AHA Session 269
Coordinating Council for Women in History 9
Sunday, January 6, 2013: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Roosevelt Ballroom III (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Heather Fryer, Creighton University
Jennifer Koslow, Florida State University

Session Abstract

Session Title: Revisiting Maternalism and its Legacy: Gender, Power, Health Policy, and Place in the U.S., 1912-1955

Paper # 1:  “Appropriating the Maternalist State: Rockefeller Philanthropy in the American West and the Making of County-based Maternal and Infant Health Policy,” Kathi Nehls, University of Georgia

Paper # 2:  “A New Look at ‘Save the Babies!’: Reproduction, Nation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Pro-Natal Agenda, 1912-1918,” Brianna Theobald, Arizona State University

Paper # 3:  “Nurses Building a Nation: Healthcare and Policy in the Indian Service, 1924-1955,” Lisa Schuelke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Chair:  Heather Fryer, Creighton University

Comment:  Jennifer Koslow, Florida State University

These three studies focus on the relationship between state-formation and health policy development in the American West.  Considering “place” seriously, such work expands and challenges current understandings of the roles both men and women played in early twentieth-century maternalist campaigns.  The papers presented on this panel also reflect the various perspectives of current state-formation debates.  Theobald’s and Schuelke’s papers look at ways in which male physicians and female nurses within the institutional framework of the state molded policy at the local level.  Theobald’s work analyzes masculine activities in a maternalist and paternalist project as part of the nation building function within the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 1912 “Save the Babies!” campaign.  Comparing it to racialized maternalist efforts in other regions of the world, Theobald offers a fresh interpretation of this familiar program.  Schuelke’s study builds on recent scholarship emphasizing the ways western women performed as agents of the state from the late nineteenth- to the early twentieth-centuries by extending the story into the 1950s.  Illustrating how white nurses navigated cultural boundaries, she portrays the strategies they used to both erode and reinforce federal policy.  Nehls’ work brings a different perspective to the panel in a study that examines the critical part that non-state actors, in this case the Rockefeller International Health Board, played in shaping federal policy at the grassroots.  This panel may attract individuals interested in policy history, women’s and gender studies, the history of healthcare, the American West, or Native American history.  Two excellent scholars who have graciously agreed to serve as chair and comment complete this panel.  Session chair Heather Fryer is Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of American Studies at Creighton University.  She is the author of Perimeters of Democracy: Inverse Utopias and the Wartime Social Landscape in the American West, which considers the impact of federally run reservations of all kinds on the social and political development of the American West.  We are pleased to have Jennifer Koslow, Assistant Professor of History at Florida State University, offer comments. She leads the Public History program at FSU, and is the author of Cultivating Health: Los Angeles Women and Public Health Reform, which explores why women, instead of city officials, took charge of public health.  It looks at how women used science and maternalism to argue for an expanded role for government and citizen action.

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