Hardy Backwoodsmen, Wholesome Women, and Steady Families: Immigration and the Construction of a White Society in Colonial British Columbia, 1849-1871
AbstractImmigration was central to nineteenth-century colony-building, as is evident from an examination of mid-nineteenth-century British Columbia. This colony’s overwhelmingly male and racially plural settler society inevitably disappointed those who hoped to find a stable white settler colony, and the discrepancy helped to generate a spate of reformatory schemes in which immigration played a key and constant role. Colonial promoters’ discussions of desirable immigrants centred around three images — the “hardy backwoodsman”, the “steady family”, and the “wholesome woman” — that reveal overlapping concerns with gender, class, and race. Together, these images were constructed as the immigrants able to transform British Columbia into the stable settler society of imperialists’ dreams. That they failed to do so in practice confirms that immigration functioned as a mechanism for inclusion and exclusion, but not always in predictable ways.