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From the mill to the hill : race, gender, and nation in the making of a French-Canadian community in Maillardville, BC, 1909-1939 Lapointe, Geneveieve

Abstract

This study looks at the making of a French-Canadian community in Maillardville, British Columbia, between 1909 and 1939. Drawing on oral history transcripts, as well as textual and visual documents, From the Mill to the Hill explores how complicated and contested relations of race, class, gender, and sexuality intertwined to constitute a French-Canadian identity and community in Maillardville prior to the Second World War. Using critical discourse analysis as methodology, this study examines the narratives of 23 men and women who were interviewed in the early 1970s and lived in Maillardville in the period preceding that war. Newspaper articles, city council minutes, company records, church records, as well as historical photographs culled from various archives and a local museum, also serve as primary documents. From the Mill to the Hill argues that a French-Canadian identity and community was constructed in Maillardville between 1909 and 1939 through the racialization of bodies and spaces. Narratives about the myth of the frontier, the opposite "other," and the racialization of the space in and around the company town of Fraser Mills illustrate how identity construction operated within a gendered and racialized framework. Secondly, this study excavates the fragile "whiteness" of French Canadians as both colonizers and colonized in British Columbia. Even though these French Canadians were de facto Canadian citizens - thus entitled to purchase land, and (for the men) vote in elections - they were also working-class, poor, Roman Catholic, and French-speaking - all attributes that made them inferior in the eyes of English-speaking Canadians of Protestant British descent. Finally, this thesis explores the moral regulation of gender roles, heteronormativity, and wedding ceremonies. Looking specifically at the institutional power of the Roman Catholic religion and education, this research shows how the French Canadians' fragile whiteness was also fractured along axes of gender and sexual inequalities.

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