Edith Moses was the wife of a member of the Second Philippine Commission, a government body tasked with establishing a civilian government in the Philippines. Though not much is known about her specific duties, as a white woman, her general role was to display white American values as part of the colonizing mission. Like other wives, she engaged in social events that were used to build rapport with elite Filipinos. This document, “The Filipinos Are like Children 1908,” contains letters from Moses discussing her thoughts on Filipinos and the cholera epidemic that struck while she was in the Philippines. Her writing reveals racist attitudes and actions towards Filipinos that can help us to better understand the common sentiments of Americans in the Philippines.
Moses infantilizes native Filipinos by describing them as easily distracted and unintelligent, but harmless. She has heard about their violent reputation that is common among American colonizers, but does not agree: “They do not seem to be such a fierce race as they are reported. They strike me as lazy, polite, and good-natured.” Though she rejects the first type of racist stereotyping, she suggests a different type that considers Filipinos as similar to children. In her discussion of the cholera outbreak, she reports that Americans placed infected families into detention camps and burned all of the nipa huts that Filipino families live in because they cannot be properly sanitized. She recognizes that these actions must seem unjust, but says that “even intelligent Filipinos” cannot understand that they are for the greater good.
This source highlights the brutal practices of Americans in the Philippines, especially during a public health crisis like cholera. It also provides insight into the wide range of racist feelings that were held towards Filipinos. Though other colonizers during this time regarded Filipinos as barbaric, Moses had a different perspective that suggests an alternative motive for intervention. This document reveals colonial attitudes that can help us to better understand American intervention in the Philippines and colonialism more broadly.
Moses, Edith. “The Filipinos Are like Children, 1908.” In American Empire at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Kristin L. Hoganson. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.