Claire Lowrie
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Idle mems, weary wives and ‘red hot revolutionaries’
Domestic tension and political antagonism in the home, 1910s–1930s
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Chapter 5 explores the tense relationship between British and white Australian mistresses and their Chinese male servants. Drawing on oral histories, fiction, travel writing and newspaper articles produced by white women, this chapter illustrates that white women in Darwin and Singapore believed themselves to be competing with Chinese men for power and control in the home. The chapter considers household tension in the context of the nationalist and colonialist politics of the interwar era. At the same time as white women were asserting their status as ideal homemakers in order to prove their worth to the colonial project in Singapore and the nationalist project in Darwin, Chinese male servants seem to have been asserting their status as workers’ with rights in line with the Chinese and Australian nationalist rhetoric of the era. By bringing mainstream political history back inside the home, this chapter seeks to consider the mistress-‘houseboy’ relationship from a new perspective.

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Masters and servants

Cultures of empire in the tropics


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