UBC Theses and Dissertations
“Hail to the Queen of the May!” : settler futurity, childhood, and the May Queens of New Westminster, 1858-1939 Twiss, Georgia Rose
This thesis examines the intimate relationship forged between the traditional British festival May Day, the celebration’s main figure the May Queen, and white settler society in New Westminster between the event’s earliest beginnings in 1858 and the end of the interwar years in 1939. In doing so, this thesis argues that the advent and ongoing celebration of May Day in the city was part of a larger project of collective aspiration—what scholars term settler futurity—that fundamentally defined settler colonialism in British Columbia, and elsewhere, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The May Queen, performed in these years through the body of a white settler girl between the ages of ten and sixteen, served as the ultimate symbol of this futurity and a powerful community figure around which gendered and racialized notions of collective identity, civic loyalty and belonging took shape. In this, the annual embodied performance of the May Queen – supported by her Maids of Honour and the Honour Guard of white settler boys – functioned as a crucial means of investing children with the gendered behavioural expectations and responsibilities necessary to represent and uphold the cisheteronormative patriarchal logics of settler colonialism that would ensure the longevity of a stable white settler future in the city. This examination of May Day and the May Queens of New Westminster, then, reveals the critical role that white settler children, in particular white settler girls, played as politicized subjects in the construction and maintenance of local colonial power and settler society in British Columbia from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.
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