Katherine Mayo

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Katherine Mayo
Katherine Mayo 1928.jpg
Mayo in 1928
Born (1867-01-27)January 27, 1867
Ridgway, Pennsylvania
Died October 9, 1940(1940-10-09) (aged 73)
Bedford Hills, New York
Citizenship American
Occupation Historian
Years active 1892–1940
Known for Mother India (1927)

Katherine Mayo (January 27, 1867 – October 9, 1940) was an American researcher and historian. Mayo entered public life as a political writer advocating White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Nativism, opposition to non-white and Catholic immigration to the United States, and opposition to recently emancipated African slave laborers. She became known for denouncing the Philippine Declaration of Independence on racialist and religious grounds, then went on to publish and promote her best-known work, Mother India (1927), wherein she opposed Indian Independence from British rule. Her work was well received in British government circles and among American Anglophile racialists, but was criticized by others for notorious racism and Indophobia.


Mayo was born in Ridgway, Pennsylvania, to James Henry and Harriet Elizabeth (Ingraham) Mayo, and was educated privately. Shortly after graduation, she started work as a researcher and historian by helping Oswald Garrison Villard of the New York Evening Post (whose father owned the newspaper) prepare his book John Brown 1800–1859: A Biography Fifty Years After, a biography of John Brown, which was published in 1910. Villard was a founder of the American Anti-Imperialist League and an officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He influenced Mayo to become a social reformer.[1] Mayo also became a member of the Mayflower Society and had cordial links with the Daughters of the American Revolution. The latter were hostile to non-white immigration to the United States at the time, believing the country to rightfully belong to white Anglo Saxons of British descent and Protestant faith.[2]

Several of Mayo's early writings promoted anti-Catholicism and hostility to non-white independence movements against European colonial rule. Mayo combined anti-Catholicism and Anti-Filipino sentiment in her writings that opposed the independence of the Philippines from American rule.[3] Mayo's early journalistic works celebrated the Anglo-Saxon "racial character" of American nationalism and promoted xenophobia against Irish Catholic immigrants, as well as increasingly prominent African American laborers.[2][3] Mayo claimed that "negroes" were sexually aggressive and lacked self-control, thus rendering them a threat to "innocent white Anglo-Saxon women".[2] Mayo put her highly effective writing skills behind the effort to establish a rural police in New York and supported their ability to control immigrants and blacks whose involvement in labor rights agitations were viewed by Mayo as a threat to white supremacy.[3]

Mayo became notorious for her polemical book Mother India (1927), in which she attacked Hindu society and religion, and the culture of India. Critics of Mayo accuse her works of being racist, pro-imperialist[2] and Indophobic tracts that "expressed all the dominant prejudices of colonial society."[3]

The book created a sensation on three continents.[4] Written against the demands for self-rule and Indian independence from the British Raj, Mayo alluded to the treatment of India's women, the Dalits, the animals, the dirt and the character of its nationalistic politicians. Mayo singled out the "rampant" and fatally weakening sexuality of its males to be at the core of all problems, leading to masturbation, rape, homosexuality, prostitution and venereal diseases and, most importantly, to too early sexual intercourse and premature maternity. Mayo's claims were supported by British Indian authorities as a countermeasure to growing sympathies for the Indian Independence Movement against British rule in the region. The book was thus received enthusiastically by British authorities and propagated among Americans who related the movement for Indian independence with the American Revolution.[2] Mayo's claims and perceptions of Indian society became one of the most negative influences on the American people's view of India in history.[citation needed] The book prompted the publication of over fifty critical books and pamphlets[5] and an eponymous film.[3] It was burned in India and New York, along with an effigy of its author.[6] It was criticized by Mahatma Gandhi, who wrote in response:

This book is cleverly and powerfully written. The carefully chosen quotations give it the false appearance of a truthful book. But the impression it leaves on my mind is that it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to be reported upon, or to give a graphic description of the stench exuded by the opened drains. If Miss Mayo had confessed that she had come to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she declared her abominable and patently wrong conclusion with a certain amount of triumph: 'the drains are India'.[7]

After its publication Dalip Singh Saund (later a congressman) wrote My Mother India to counter Mayo's assertions.[8][9] Another response to Mayo's book was Dhan Gopal Mukerji's A Son of Mother India Answers.[10] The title of the 1957 Hindi epic film Mother India was a deliberate rebuke to Mayo's book.[3]


  • Justice to All: History of the Pennsylvania State Police (1917)
  • The Standard Bearers: True Stories of Heroes of Law and Order (1918)
  • That Damn Y (1920)
  • Mounted Justice: True Stories of the Pennsylvania State Police (1922)
  • The Isles of Fear: The Truth about the Philippines (1925)
  • Mother India (1927)
  • Slaves of the Gods (1929)
  • Volume II (1931)
  • Soldiers What Next! (1934)
  • The Face of Mother India (1935)
  • General Washington's Dilemma (1938)
  • Selections from Mother India (1998, Mrinalini Sinha, editor)


  1. ^ Chatfield, Charles (1970). "World War I and the Liberal Pacifist in the United States". The American Historical Review. 75 (7): 1920–1937. doi:10.2307/1848023. JSTOR 1848023. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Teed, Paul (2003). "Race Against Memory: Katherine Mayo, Jabez Sunderland, and Indian Independence". American Studies. 44 (1–2): 35–57. JSTOR 40643432. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Sinha, Mrinalini (2006). Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire. Duke University Press Books. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8223-3795-9. 
  4. ^ Mrinalini Sinha: "Introduction". In: Sinha (ed.): Selections from Mother India. Women's Press, New Delhi 1998.
  5. ^ Jayawardena, Kumari (1995). The white woman's other burden: Western women and South Asia during British colonial rule. Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-415-91104-7. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ Frick, Katherine (Spring 2006) Mayo, Katherine (Prence, Katherine). libraries.psu.edu
  7. ^ Teaching Journal: Katherine Mayo's Mother India (1927). Lehigh.edu (February 7, 2006)
  8. ^ Saund, Dalip Singh (c. 1930). My Mother India. Stockton, California: Pacific coast Khalsa Diwan society (Sikh temple). p. 218. LCCN 30013748. OCLC 3401226.  LCC DS421 .S25 OCLC 253315388
  9. ^ Tisdale, Sara (December 19, 2008). "Breaking Barriers: Congressman Dalip Singh Saund". Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ Mukerji, Dhan Gopal (1928). A Son of Mother India Answers. E. P. Dutton & company, 1928. Retrieved January 16, 2014.  Reprint 1928 by Rupa & Company, ISBN 978-81-7167-650-7

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