Paper Title

[2.3] "The Royal Line of New Westminster": Gender, Pageantry and Britishness in the New Westminster May Day Parade, 1870-1920

Location

Arts & Education Building 164, Moderated by Brenda Smith

Start Date

18-1-2019 2:00 PM

End Date

18-1-2019 3:15 PM

Disciplines

History | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Traditionally, within British May Day celebrations, the May Queen plays a simple role as the personification of springtime. In New Westminster, however, the figure of the May Queen transformed into an objectified representation of Britishness and idealised femininity. Within the choreographed spectacle of the parade, her gendered performance enforced community boundaries by defining ideals of both masculinity and femininity. Her body became a tool to promote the normative codes of gender, race, and class that upheld the patriarchal structure of the city. In doing so, the May Queens of New Westminster were essential to the construction of white society in the city and therefore illustrate the vital role gender played in the maintenance of colonial rule in British Columbia. The primary objective of this paper is to explore the complex interplay between gender, pageantry, and the construction of community in the New Westminster May Day Parade from its inception in 1870 to its fiftieth-anniversary celebration in 1920. Using primary sources such as local newspapers and May Day Committee minutes examined through an analysis of gender, the focal point of this paper is the performed role of the May Queen. How did the May Queen transform from a symbol of spring into an objectified representation of femininity and Britishness? How do factors such as gender, race and class inform the transformation of this role?

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[2.3] "The Royal Line of New Westminster": Gender, Pageantry and Britishness in the New Westminster May Day Parade, 1870-1920

Arts & Education Building 164, Moderated by Brenda Smith

Traditionally, within British May Day celebrations, the May Queen plays a simple role as the personification of springtime. In New Westminster, however, the figure of the May Queen transformed into an objectified representation of Britishness and idealised femininity. Within the choreographed spectacle of the parade, her gendered performance enforced community boundaries by defining ideals of both masculinity and femininity. Her body became a tool to promote the normative codes of gender, race, and class that upheld the patriarchal structure of the city. In doing so, the May Queens of New Westminster were essential to the construction of white society in the city and therefore illustrate the vital role gender played in the maintenance of colonial rule in British Columbia. The primary objective of this paper is to explore the complex interplay between gender, pageantry, and the construction of community in the New Westminster May Day Parade from its inception in 1870 to its fiftieth-anniversary celebration in 1920. Using primary sources such as local newspapers and May Day Committee minutes examined through an analysis of gender, the focal point of this paper is the performed role of the May Queen. How did the May Queen transform from a symbol of spring into an objectified representation of femininity and Britishness? How do factors such as gender, race and class inform the transformation of this role?