UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Re/producing a "white British Columbia" : the meanings of the Janet Smith Bill Kerwin, Michael Scott


During the fall of 1924, the British Columbia Legislature debated a bill that proposed banning the employment of white women and Asian men as servants in the same household. Although this piece of legislation (publicly known as the "Janet Smith Bill") never passed into law, it offers great insight into the racial and nationalist ideas that were dominant in 1920's British Columbia. Drawing on postmodern theories of 'discourse' and 'knowledge,' I have located the Janet Smith Bill within larger intellectual and political structures to understand what the bill's goal of "protecting white women" means. My thesis identifies two primary meanings of this bill. First, the Janet Smith Bill is meant to prevent the production of Eurasian children in British Columbia by keeping Asian men and young white women physically apart. Scientific "knowledge" dictated that such offspring would only produce social chaos in the country. The second primary meaning of the bill is based on the nationalist drive to keep British Columbia "white" by increasing the white birthrate. Moral reformers and politicians feared that young white women would become drug addicts through close association with 'Orientals,' consequently forsaking their duty as "mothers of the race." Protecting white women, according to this discourse, meant protecting their ability and opportunity to produce healthy white babies. The Janet Smith Bill, therefore, was meant to produce and reproduce a "white British Columbia."

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