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Past Caring? Women, work and emotion

Sunday 21 January 2018 2:12pm

Edited by Barbara Brookes, Jane McCabe and Angela Wanhalla

Brookes_cover_thumbnailThe book

Are women past caring? Care is essential to social relationships and individual well-being. It is woven into New Zealand’s key social institutions, such as the family, and is also embedded in societal expectations around state provision of health and welfare. Care is so vital, in fact, that it is often taken for granted and goes unnoticed and unrewarded.

Historical and philosophical enquiry have largely ignored the issue of care, yet it raises profound questions about gender, justice and morality. The essays in this volume raise those questions directly – at the level of abstraction where prominent New Zealand women philosophers grappled with the political implications, and on the ground at the level of family relationships.

Understanding the history of care requires attention to personal narratives, such as a Māori grandmother’s story, a Rarotongan leader’s concept of duty to her people, or the sense of service that drove a long-term social worker. Memories of childhood night-time care are carried across the ocean from North East India. The depiction of sole-carer mothers in New Zealand film suggests a ‘caring’ alternative to the celebrated concept of ‘man alone’. The case studies examined focus on the everyday nature of care operating across domestic, institutional and political spaces, and build upon areas of strength in women’s history with its interest in family, motherhood, health, welfare, education and employment.

The foundations of Past Caring? lie with Making Women Visible, a national conference on women’s history held at the University of Otago in February 2016. This important volume opens up a set of perspectives and experiences of caring to begin a conversation about urgent questions facing New Zealand society. How do we recognise, reward and do justice to those acts that hold our society together?

The editors

Barbara Brookes is a professor of history at the University of Otago. She has published extensively on gender relations in New Zealand, as well as the history of health and disease in New Zealand and Britain. Her most recent book is A History of New Zealand Women (Bridget Williams Books, 2016), which won the Illustrated Non-Fiction category of the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards.

Jane McCabe is a lecturer in history at the University of Otago, whereshe teaches papers on colonial and modern India, migration and global history. Her monograph Race, Tea and Colonial Resettlement: Imperial families, interrupted (Bloomsbury, 2017) examined a Presbyterian scheme that resettled 130 mixed-race children from Indian tea plantations to New Zealand in the early twentieth century.

Angela Wanhalla teaches in the Department of History and Art History, University of Otago, where she is a historian of race, gender and colonialism. Her most recent books are He Reo Wāhine: Māori women’s voices from the nineteenth century (AUP, 2017), co-written with Lachy Paterson, and Mothers’ Darlings of the South Pacific: The children of indigenous women and US servicemen, World War II (University of Hawaii Press/OUP, 2016), co-edited with Judith A. Bennett.

Publication details

Paperback, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1-98-853134-2, $39.95
February 2019