by | 15 December 2023 | Blog, News

Women in child search: a gendered view of post-World War II reconstruction

We’re delighted to announce a new article from Dr Christine Schmidt @ChristineErinWL and Professor Dan Stone @RHUL_HRI: ‘Women in child search: a gendered view of post-WWII reconstruction’ which explores the body which assisted large numbers of unaccompanied children found after 1945.



One of the most crucial sections of the International Tracing Service, centralized and established in 1948, was the Child Search Branch (CSB), which had the emotionally and ethically complex task of assisting ‘unaccompanied children’ who were discovered in far larger numbers after 1945 than anyone had expected. This article examines the role of three women relief workers who ran the CSB in the post-war period: Eileen Blackey, Cornelia Heise and Eileen Davidson. Focusing mainly on these exemplary cases, the authors evaluate and centre the women’s leadership and decisions, showing how women who worked for the CSB played roles that subverted the general rule in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and its successor organization, the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which was that women were directed into ‘feminine’ posts. Women who ran the CSB played senior roles in child search and welfare and the decisions they took had significant and crucial outcomes for children, although gendered assessments of ‘carer’ and ‘feminine’ roles in UNRRA/IRO more widely have thus far hidden their activities as a subject worthy of analysis. This article shows how gender affected the spheres of influence the women carved out as they contributed to post-war reconstruction and humanitarian aid.