UBC Undergraduate Research

“The forgotten front” : a walking tour of Vancouver during the First World War Stickland, Courtney


The First World War significantly impacted the physical and social landscapes of Vancouver, disrupting the established social conventions that dictated daily life in the pre-war period. Prior to the War, English- Canadian society was circumscribed by patriarchy and colonialism; however, the demographic shift created by the First World War provided a temporary opportunity for women and non-white groups to challenge existing social structures through participation in the war effort. Vancouver’s war effort re-inscribed the city’s built environment as a place of overt imperialism and loyalty to the British Empire, as well as patriotism to a fledgling Canadian nation. Various areas of the city’s built environment was transformed into spaces of militarism and patriotism, localizing the wider processes of global war within the familiar spaces of Vancouver’s home front; these newly defined spaces constantly reinforced duty to the Empire as an integral component of citizenship and subjecthood. This walking tour explores a number of sites located in and around Vancouver’s historical business district (including West Hastings, Pender and Beatty Streets, and Victory Square) that were involved in various home front activities during the First World War. The tour is intended to illustrate the spatiality of Vancouver’s war effort in the downtown area, revealing the lost history of the city’s built environment and how the war effort was deeply embedded into the physical landscape of the city. The tour also discusses the social changes that occurred within these spaces during the First World War, particularly the temporary advancements made by women and Japanese Canadians as a result of their participation in the war effort.

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