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Motherhood, morality and materiality: How material changes to wartime Cape Town affected discourses around women, racial health and the city, 1914–1919.


Year published: 2021
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Walton, S.


Urban History, 48(1), 54-70. doi:10.1017/S0963926820000279


This article explores ways in which material changes engendered by World War I influenced ideas about Cape Town and its people. For the city's middle classes, these conditions – including a rise in the cost of living, increased urbanization, the growth of factory work for women and the notable presence of soldiers in the city – heightened the sense that Cape Town was a place of increased moral corruption. In particular, females were portrayed as pivotal to the upholding of the moral and racial integrity of the city, nation and empire. Yet the perceived race and class of different Capetonian women influenced the expectations (and accordant condemnations) of their behaviour. This linked to white middle-class anxieties about miscegenation and urban order. As such, discourses around female behaviour during the war represented a nexus between issues of health, race and morality within the South African urban context.


  • Journal Article