chapter  2
24 Pages

Learning to be a Woman

Female philanthropy on the domestic and imperial stages may be interpreted critically, whilst not losing sight of the positive outcomes of middle-class women's engagement with the class and race dynamics of industrial society. The anti-slavery campaign was one example of an early critical engagement with imperial policies which was lacking in the moral superiority characteristic of later campaigns. The first colonial encounter between European white women and black women of the colonies was in the context of two parallel endeavours. Women's mission to women in the imperial context was carried out in a spirit of empathy and good intentions but it was to be challenged by the beneficiaries' who went on to develop their own routes to emancipation. The race and class tensions and hierarchies that gave feminists a platform were reinforced as the same women attempted to dismantle the gender hierarchies they perceived as a constraint on their own freedom.