Tuesday, November 22, 2011


In the play, Posts in the Paddock, Ethel and Jimmy, like most newly married couples, just want to be together all the time and live happily ever after.
But the negative attitude towards a white woman marrying a black man which prevailed in Victorian times worked against them. 
This was not just the case in Australia, but in the USA as well.
Katherine Ellinghaus, in her book Taking Assimilation to Heart (2006), devotes an entire chapter to white women married to Aboriginal men, in particular Ethel and Jimmy Governor.
She starts out by quoting from an Australian book on marital advice published in 1900 which advises its middle class readers against marrying a man from 'a lower race'.
This includes a 'Negro, a Hindoo, a Chinaman' and 'an Australian black'.
In parts of the United States at that time it was illegal for a black man to have a sexual relationship with a white woman.
While being from different racial backgrounds was not an issue for Jimmy or Ethel, it was for many of those who came into contact with them after their marriage.
Dr Ellinghaus is currently a Monash Fellow in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University in Victoria.
She has a PhD from Melbourne University and is currently doing further research on assimilation in Australia and the USA.