Photograph of Muriel Fletcher (second from left, middle row) with students and staff of the School of Social Science, 1926-27 University of Liverpool (1/1)
In 1927, following an address by Rachel Fleming whose research had drawn attention to the ‘great difficulty of the half-caste girl’, the Liverpool Association for the Welfare of Half-Caste Children was formed. The Association appointed Miss Muriel E Fletcher, then a probation officer at Stoke-on-Trent and trained in the Liverpool School of Social Science, to undertake the study. This was published as the Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and other Ports, with a Foreword by Professor Roxby, a Professor of Geography at the University of Liverpool, who heralded it as ‘probably the most thorough investigation of this particular problem that has so far been made’. Fletcher’s report was damning. In addition to its judgemental commentary about the relationships between black men and white women, it concluded that the off-spring of such interracial ‘alliances’ not only suffered from inherent physical and mental defects, but were also socially outcast and marginalised.
The moral condemnation of the ‘coloured men’, the women who entered relationships with them, and their children resulted in great damage to race relations in Liverpool and Fletcher had to flee the city for her own safety. Yet, despite local outrage about the methodologically flawed and biased study, the report was highly influential and would shape perceptions of mixed race people and families for many years to come.
“The children find their lives full of conflict both within themselves and within the family, and all the circumstances of their lives tend to give undue prominence to sex. These families have a low standard of life, morally and economically, and there appears to be little future for the children.”