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Exhibiting Canada
Empire, migration and the 1928 English Schoolgirl Tour

This chapter focuses on the lengths to which the IODE would go to produce a Canada that emulated Britain, with a case study of the 1928 English Schoolgirl Tour of Canada. The IODE placed high hopes that, on a micro level, the tour would directly encourage British migration to Canada, and collaborated with the Society for the Oversea Settlement of British Women (SOSBW) in this impressive cross-Canada tour. The itinerary formed a narrative of superior British-based culture, economy and politics in a modern resource-rich, technologically advanced, democratic Canadian nation. The tour captured a 1928 moment in the narrative of hegemonic Anglo-Canada. As a result of this tour, the 1920s saw nationalism and imperialism modernise, with the schoolgirls' experiences tied up in an era of technological improvement.

In the late summer of 1928, twenty-five young women aged 17–18 years, representatives of sixteen élite English public schools,1 assembled with their parents on the departure platform at Euston Station in London, to begin a two-month tour of Canada. From London they took a train to Liverpool, and then went by sea to Canada. Figure 4.1 outlines the Canadian itinerary. The girls had been carefully selected. Nominated by their respective headmistresses, and having survived final selection by a sub-committee of the SOSBW, they were wished Bon Voyage! by no lesser a personage than Secretary of State for the Dominions Colonel Amery.2

Each of the parties involved in organizing the tour, from the IODE and the SOSBW to the Canadian and British Governments, had its own particular great hope for the tour. Such enthusiasm on an imperial and a national scale contrasted with the media attention. A wide selection of Canadian newspapers in the 1920s had been full of articles discussing the pros and cons of immigration to Canada, yet coverage of this tour in the Canadian mainstream press was limited to a few group photographs of the prim young English schoolgirls, and the details of their itinerary were placed mainly on the social pages.3 I have found no mention of the tour in the left-wing press of the time: the opportunity to use the tour to critique Canadian labour and immigration policies was apparently passed up.4 The media’s coverage, such as it was, of the tour was confined to reports of the activities of a women’s club movement, which seems indicative of a view of immigration as a male-led, employment-related, affair, while women’s involvement was restricted to the ‘private sphere’ of hospitality.

This chapter provides a case study of how the reality was not so simple. The IODE collaborated with the SOSBW in this impressive cross-Canada tour. In its organization, itinerary and subjects, the tour provides a vivid snapshot of the IODE’s ideal Canada. The itinerary formed a narrative of superior British-based culture, economy and politics in a modern resource-rich, technologically advanced, democratic Canadian nation. The schoolgirls were considered highly desirable ‘British stock’, of the respectable classes and positioned to transmit back to Britain an appropriate image of Canada. They were themselves simultaneously on display, setting an example to which Canadians should aspire. Complicating the events was an entanglement in the post-war immigration interests of Britain, as well as of Canada at large.

Empire unity

The tour was part of the British Government’s Empire settlement scheme of the 1920s, as outlined in the previous chapter. The tour organizers, however, were operating on a much grander level than simply expecting that the twenty-five schoolgirls would themselves emigrate. Related to immigration, Empire unity was the theme behind the organization of educational excursions for representatives of vibrant British youth. The badges given to the girls by the SOSBW, as well as the minutes of the SOSBW, refer to the tour as simply an ‘oversea tour’, without specific reference to Canada. Commenting on the reasons, as she understood them, for the tour, Betty Bidder, a member of that group of schoolgirls, recalls: ‘We were all issued with a badge before we left and I still have mine and, in fact, have even found it. I see it was from the SOSBW, which I think stood for the Society for the Overseas [sic] Settlement of British Women. Perhaps this indicated that Britain wanted to get rid of us rather than Canada wanted us as immigrants.’5

That the tour was intended to encourage Empire unity is supported by memories of the tour. Beatrice King, another of the girls on the tour, offers this contemporary view: ‘I don’t think there were any real feelings that we were expected to emigrate. It was I think purely to enlarge our outlook and to show us what a truly marvellous country Canada was. You could not fail to see this.’6 Neither Betty Bidder nor Beatrice King emigrated to Canada. Beatrice King considered emigrating after the Second World War, but was put off by stories that jobs and housing were hard to find. Betty Bidder has a grandson living in Toronto. She compares the spirit of the tour with that of ‘overseas experience’ trips undertaken today by young adults throughout the Western world: ‘My grandchildren go all over the world as a matter of course, but in 1928 our trip was looked on as a great adventure.’7 Empire unity, however, was strongly connected to migration. Avril Maddrell argues that the British school curriculum, for geography in particular, played a part in encouraging migration. The 1928 Schoolgirl Tour took place in the context of school texts that, Maddrell suggests, imparted information about different parts of the Empire and linked to migration through the travel of schoolchildren.8

The idea for Empire tours had begun in the early 1920s when, following a visit to England by the Young Australian League, a reciprocal visit to Australia was sponsored by the Church of England Council of Empire Settlement. There were grand plans to send 200 boys from English public schools on tours of the Empire.9 Along with the headmasters of public schools, Colonel Amery was on the schools’ Empire tour committee, thus connecting the tours to ‘oversea settlement’.10 Between 1927 and 1939 around twenty tours were organized, and small groups of public schoolboys travelled to South Africa and Rhodesia, Canada and Newfoundland, New Zealand and Australia, India, East Africa, the West Indies and British Guiana.11 Similar tours by schoolgirls during the same period have received no attention until now. Of the four schoolgirl tours between 1928 and 1938, the 1928 tour of Canada was by far the most extensive. Due to the onset of the Depression, the next tour was not until 1934 when, from 2 August until 14 December, twenty-five schoolgirls went to Australia and New Zealand. That tour, like the one in 1928, was led by Miss Thompson, with the Victoria League hosting the girls. The girls travelled via the Panama Canal and Fiji, and returned via Ceylon and Suez.12 Plans for a 1935 tour to South and East Africa were abandoned because of the Abyssinian Crisis.13 In 1936 there was a third tour, for six weeks, on which, again under the supervision of Miss Thompson, twenty-six girls visited eastern Canada.14 From April until the end of July 1938, a fourth tour visited South Africa and Rhodesia.15

It was in 1927 that the Oversea Settlement Committee of the Colonial Office suggested to the SOSBW that it consider the possibility of a tour to Canada for English schoolgirls. As the SOSBW contemplated which women’s organizations it would approach for help in Canada, an IODE national executive officer, Miss Arnoldi, surreptitiously visited the SOSBW offices as part of a visit to England.16 Through Miss Arnoldi, the SOSBW asked the IODE if it would cooperate in a tour and a situation agreeable to both parties was worked out. Enthusiasm was subsequently gauged from the IODE’s cross-Canada membership, the response being one of ‘hearty endorsement’.17 The IODE had the additional intention that, after the tour, having worked positively with the SOSBW, it would become the sole representative of the SOSBW in Canada, and thus extend its influence over female emigration to Canada. The outcome of these hopes unfolds in the next chapter.

The IODE attempted to centre the tour’s focus on Canada, with Empire unity as a peripheral, though important, concern. For the IODE, the tour was clearly intended to be more than an educational excursion. At the end of the 1920s, the IODE was desperate to attract British immigrants. Members of the IODE countenanced the possibility of these girls, and others like them, emigrating to Canada. When one of the girls wrote to the IODE, after the tour, saying, ‘I shall probably be coming to Canada to live before long because Dad is so interested in my account of the trip that he has made up his mind to go and see the country for himself’, the editor of Echoes commented: ‘From the foregoing it is evident that the visit of the English schoolgirls to Canada will have a far reaching effect, not the least of which will be the encouragement of British migration to this Dominion.’18

On the party’s return to Britain, the interests both of the IODE and of Empire unity found outlets in talks given by the girls at their schools and in radio broadcasts. When Beatrice King returned to her school she was ‘asked to tell about 100 of the senior girls all about it’.19 In a radio broadcast, Miss Thompson, director of the tour and member of council of the SOSBW, commented on ‘the wonderful hospitality of our hostesses’.20 Each member of the touring party stayed as the guest of approximately twenty-two families around Canada: ‘We liked Canada and I hope some of us may go back again. We are all ardent propagandists for the Great Dominion.’21

Gender, race, class and environment on the propaganda tour

The historical record of the tour is formed by the girls’ diary entries, which were subsequently published in Echoes, a radio broadcast made upon return to Britain, and by my correspondence with two of the touring party, the content of whose replies, of course, reflects their lifetimes’ memories (though its energy and enthusiasm continues to portray the hopes at the time of the IODE). Both the published diary entries and the broadcast can be considered ‘propaganda’; in John MacKenzie’s sense of ‘the transmission of ideas and values with the specific intention of influencing the recipients’ attitudes in such a way that the interests of its authors will be enhanced’.22 I suspect that the girls were willing to please tour organizers and so accentuated positive images. Further, in publishing the diary entries Echoes chose extracts that suited its purposes. Likewise, the radio broadcast was carefully managed. Considered as propaganda, it revealed a colonial discourse that emphasized the interests of the tour organizers. My correspondence with the women who were on the tour as girls attempts to move beyond the propaganda; but, as with all of the interview-based material in this book, information recalled through lifetimes of experiences is influenced by the present, and must be treated as such.

Significantly, the tour captures a 1928 moment in the narrative of hegemonic Anglo-Canada. To adapt Edward Said’s perspective, the strength of the tour was found in the power to block the formation of ‘other’ narratives. Emphasizing the similarities between the dominion and the ‘mother country’, the IODE hoped, would encourage British citizens to emigrate to familiar territory. It was felt to be all-important during the tour that the schoolgirls should be given ‘an intimate insight into all that was best in our Canadian life’.23 The rhetoric of the British race as one big family was taken to great extremes. It was the IODE’s purpose throughout the tour to ‘make the girls seem like extended family members’, so that they would ‘have the point of view of relations visiting their own people and seeing the inside of our Canadian homes and the atmosphere and sentiment of Canadian life’.24 The girls were to see and feel Canada at its best. As Betty Bidder recalls: ‘As far as I remember, I felt like I was to be an ambassadress for Canada, and was expected to tell everyone back in England what a wonderful country it was. I had no trouble in doing this at home and at school but do not flatter myself that it had a great deal of effect.’25 To the IODE, the schoolgirls epitomized the ideal Canadian, and they were exhibited to Canadians as model citizens. One of the IODE organizers proudly asserted in her post-tour report:

Twenty-five nicer and more attractive young people it would have been hard to find and their warm appreciation of what was done for them and their intense interest in Canada and what she had to show was very refreshing. Their personal feeling towards the Order before they had finished their tour was a very noteworthy feature of their Canadian impressions.26

The schoolgirls had identities as ‘daughters’ of the ‘mother country’ and future mothers themselves. In his examination of female personifications in the ‘white’ British colonies during 1886–1940, Dominic Alessio suggests that women were constructed as ‘agents of civilization’, their role moving beyond the symbolic to that of active racial and moral agents.27 Anna Davin articulates the view that such maternal civilizing work was deeply infused with race ideology and population dynamics.28 In line with such work, the schoolgirls were openly referred to as fine ‘British stock’, the carriers of racial purity, the reproducers of the next generation. There was a high value placed upon the redemptive, feminine, civilizing effects which it was believed that motherhood could have on a nation.

While containing remnants of an ideal of Victorian imperial motherhood, the tour took place in the context of the new modern era for women. The girls’ bobbed hairstyles and Mary Jane shoes, and their love of outdoor pursuits signalled the new freedom of movement for women. Meanwhile, the educational component of the tour had been recently deemed suitable for young women. The girls presented a spectacle that was a part of the modern 1920s, years captured in Veronica Strong-Boag’s The New Day Recalled.29 In more practical terms, their transportation by automobile and motor coach, as well as by rail, during the tour was also new and modern. The great distance to be covered was ambitious and made possible only by new technology in transportation. Similarly, in Britain the radio broadcast that told the story of the tour was further evidence of the utilization of new technology. Overall, from the context of the 1920s, and on a small scale, the tour offers an insight into the modernization of imperialism and nationalism themselves. And upper-class Anglo-Celtic femininity was an important part of such modernization. In Forever England Alison Light shows, through literary sources, how English culture and patriotism became bound up with domesticity and ‘the private’ at this time.30 The tour was another representation of such modernity.

The desirability of the girls was embedded in naturalized notions of race, health and sexuality. There was a strong connection between the perceived health of the girls, the health of the British race and the health of Canada as a place. Right from the beginning of the tour’s organization the SOSBW showed a concern for the health and fitness of the girls. Much care was taken by the IODE in the appointment of Miss Galt, a nurse who travelled with the girls and looked after their health. There was a clear sporting link in that the tour’s director, Miss Thompson, had previously taken a team of English hockey players abroad. In planning the itinerary much attention was given to sports and recreation with hints of the eugenics of a healthy body as essential to the ‘superior breeding stock’ of a healthy nation. This included comments that the girls had gained weight during the tour and would have to lose it by exercising on board ship on the way back to England.

Underlying references to the health and beauty of the girls was the assumption that the Canadian environment was suitable for British immigrants as distinct from those considered members of ‘lesser races’. Morag Bell has chronicled the links between geography and imperial emigration.31 Racist ideologies constructed a variety of environments throughout the British Empire as healthful for Anglo-Celts. As previous chapters have shown, Canada was portrayed as a healthy place, a northern environment of strength where ‘British stock’ thrived.32 To advance the Canadian climate as being easy for British immigrants to acclimatize to, the Canadian winter was downplayed in all aspects of the tour. The October 1928 editorial in Echoes proposed that there would be no suggestion of a ‘cold Canada’ in photographs or memories.33

Great effort was made to naturalize the Canadian environment as a place with a suitable landscape for ‘British stock’ to inhabit. The schoolgirls had travelled through the ‘marvellous’ coastal scenery of Nova Scotia, and the Annapolis Valley was described in the broadcast as ‘a fruitful, peaceful tract of country, reminding one of old-fashioned pictures of the promised land’.34 In the diary entry of Sheila Keane her first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains was recorded: ‘they looked too marvellous for words, with the sun shining on their snow-capped peaks. I don’t think any of us thought they would be quite so wonderful, or would seem so extraordinarily near.’35 Of Niagara Falls, Mary Short noted in her diary entry: ‘it was thrilling to think that we were at last at the foot of the Falls of which we had heard so much. The volume of water and the wonderfully coloured rainbows impressed us enormously.’36 Vacationing in the ‘contact zone’ of Niagara Falls, located in, as Dubinsky terms it, ‘anachronistic space’ replete with race and gender, was downplayed in favour of memories of natural beauty.37 Images of the landscape of Canada have stayed with Betty Bidder over the years. As she recalls: ‘I have very vivid memories of many beautiful places from Niagara to the Rockies. Some are so well known that they must have survived unspoilt; Niagara, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper Park.’38

The girls actually spent time living ‘in nature’. The wilds of northern Ontario were chosen for a week-long stay in log cabins. Audrey Fletcher recorded her elation: ‘as soon as our baggage arrived we rushed to put on breeches or gym tunics so that we could feel we were really campers’.39 It was reported in the broadcast of the girls’ camping experiences in northern Ontario: ‘we slept in log cabins on the shores of a perfect lake, and bathed, canoed, rowed, walked (or hiked) held sing-songs round camp fires, ate corn off the cob, hot dogs and all kinds of strange but pleasant foods, and in fact, had the time of our lives. Canadians certainly do know how to make the most of their glorious Summer.’40 Here, race and sexuality appeared natural in what was considered the most healthful of environments, the idealized epitome of Canadian space.41 The girls’ enjoyment of their surroundings, where they frolicked and were at one with nature, reinforced their suitability as Canadian immigrants.

The twenty-five schoolgirls were mostly upper-middle class, and had each paid the substantial sum of £100 towards their transportation; the remaining costs were met by the fundraising of the IODE. A few had had their passages paid for by their schools. This was the case with Beatrice King, who recalls:

My school, Christ’s Hospital, founded by Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, in 1552, very kindly sent me, as I had really left school and was waiting to start a teachers’ training course in January 1929. Miss Thompson had wanted this school to be represented. All the other schools were for fairly wealthy girls. My father was a parson with a big family and not wealthy!42

Because class difference operated in a more fluid way in Canada, the girls probably experienced a broader spectrum of society than that which they were used to in England. Where possible, it was arranged for the girls to meet Canadians of their own age and social position, ‘for the personal friendships that may thus arise are all a great strengthening of ties between the two countries’.43 Betty Bidder recalls:

Our hostesses were unfailingly generous and kind and were from all possible walks of life. On our arrival, we would see a bunch of women of all ages backed by a row of cars varying from a shining new Packard (no Cadillacs that I remember) to a Model T Ford, and the hostesses and their homes covered the same range. I am sure I sampled everything from a millionaire’s house to working-class cottages; we probably were most comfortable in the middle-class professional homes from which we came but I hope we behaved reasonably well in any of them.44

After the tour there were frequent references by the SOSBW and the girls (and by the IODE itself) to the wonderful hospitality of the IODE and the lengths to which it had gone during the tour. Beatrice King remembers the IODE members as ‘kind and entertaining’.45 As she recalls: ‘Then we stopped at small stations and were given a great welcome and given pamphlets, souvenirs, fruit, etc. This made us feel like royalty. We took turns to thank them. Then on we would go.’46 Even breakfast was often preceded by welcoming speeches, to which the girls took it in turns to reply: ‘Being one of the youngest, my turn did not come around for a third time, for which at the time I was grateful.’47 The social schedule was hectic and tiring: ‘Sometimes I fear’, recalls Betty Bidder, ‘we must have seemed very off-hand, if not downright rude; a diet of almost uninterrupted sight-seeing does tend to cause mental indigestion, and I can remember saying that if I have to admire another town hall I shall scream.’48

Privileged class position allowed access to official space. The girls were the guests of many prominent Canadians. The welcome extended in Duncan, British Columbia, was typical of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the tour. Cicely M. Nelson noted in her diary: ‘we had a royal welcome – it is simply wonderful the way so many people turn out to see such flying visitors! We put a wreath on the war memorial and then we sang the national anthem. The Mayor extended a welcome to us and everybody seemed so pleased to see us that we were only sorry we could not stay longer.’49 The tour itinerary was full of dinners and luncheons with mayors, lieutenant-governors and members of Parliament, making for a highly pressured itinerary. Legislative buildings across Canada, attributed to British-styled democracy and justice, and the connection to constitutional monarchy were emphasized, with royalty given a prominent position wherever possible. For example, there was a visit to the Prince of Wales’ ranch near Calgary. Of Regina, Pamela Butcher wrote: ‘in the afternoon we visited the Parliament Buildings, which were very fine. We were pleased to see a photograph of little Princess Elizabeth hanging on the wall there.’50 Rosamund Upcher commented that the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa ‘were very interesting, especially the peace tower, and we all thoroughly appreciated the privilege of being allowed to see the memorial chamber, which is most unusual’.51 It commemorates, of course, Canada’s loyal support for the Empire in the First World War.

At various moments during the tour, appeal was made to domesticity: the girls were shown domestic science rooms, attended a household economics lecture and handicraft fairs, and were given feminine presents such as toiletries. But because they were British and of privileged class their gender did not exclude the girls from the more masculine and public spaces. In fact, as representatives of modern womanhood, they were shown examples of Canada’s present competence and of the country’s commercial promise. At the National Exhibition in Toronto the girls were presented with a full Empire narrative. Schoolgirl Phyllis Carter noted in her diary:

We were taken to the Empire Marketing Building, which was beautifully laid out. We were particularly interested in the lovely models of animals and scenes of different parts of the Empire. We rushed around the Ontario Building and saw all of the natural resources in the Province. Then we dashed through the agricultural section. Afterwards there were bands and fireworks.52

Empire unity was made visible in the relationships of trade in natural resources. There appeared to be no end to the diversity and richness of the resources that Canada contained. In British Columbia they

were shown over some huge lumber mills, some of the biggest in the World, I believe. It is marvellous what can be done with an enormous tree in a few minutes, and rather sad in a way. A mighty tree trunk is dragged in from the river, and in a few moments cut up almost as though it were butter, the whole thing being done by one man directing a vast mass of machinery.53

In Sudbury, Muriel Brown showed an understanding of the production of nickel: ‘we all agreed that to visit Coniston is the best way to learn the “Mond Process” for nickel – much better than consulting a Chemistry text book’.54 In Calgary they took in ‘the modern city’ and the surrounding oil wells ‘with strange jets of gas spouting over the countryside’.55

Throughout the tour the agricultural resources and wealth of Canada were emphasized by visits to a wide variety of experimental farms and orchards. At Regina the girls visited the Grain Exchange and participated in the Harvest Thanksgiving: ‘One has, of course, heard descriptions over and over again of Canadian wheat fields, and it is impossible to convey an adequate impression to you.’56 In the fruit-laden Okanagan Valley the girls ‘ate more peaches than one could have believed possible’ and met many English settlers, reinforcing the notion of the bountiful life in a Canadian environment that was put forward as suited to British immigrants above all others.57

Progress and modernity in the developing dominion

All development was linked to Canada’s position in the British Empire. As Miss Thompson stated, the ‘idea was that the girls should learn something of the past history of Canada, as well as gain an impression at least of its present position and future development’.58 They were shown ‘our historical beginnings in Quebec and the Maritimes’ and then moved through the country as ‘our civilization moved West’, and capped it all off with a week’s visit to the universities to obtain ‘a more intimate knowledge of the young people of their own age’.59 There was an emphasis throughout the tour on familiarizing the girls with the heroes and great men who had helped to build Canada, with continual reference to grand narratives of conquest and domination. In Quebec City, with no guilty feelings about how French Canadians might view the site, they visited the exact landing place of General Wolfe, the British hero who captured French Canada for Britain in 1759. That is not to say that there was no recognition of a French Canadian presence, but rather that the visit was an input considered in relation to the hegemonic status of British Canada. Tensions were to be glossed over, or treated as rousing patriotic events in the formation of an overall grand narrative. In the Maritimes at Fort Champlain, the girls learned more of French–English rivalry, and in Winnipeg they received lessons on the ‘thrilling history’ of the pioneers of the Hudson’s Bay Company.60 Given the huge diet of British influence, it is not surprising that an unintentional side-effect was to emphasize difference. Recalling the tour, Beatrice King wrote that her favourite parts were ‘Montreal or Quebec, as they had such a French influence, and the history involved with these two’.61

Unlike the heroics, economic merit and cultural supremacy of the British and the French, native peoples were to be marvelled at for their continued use of what were judged primitive ways of the past. In Chilliwack, British Columbia, evidence of the extent to which Canada’s place in the Empire had supposedly infiltrated the native mind was recorded: ‘We visited an Indian school, and it was interesting to see the children show us England on the map, and on being asked, the (to us) somewhat puzzling question “what is the other name of that country?” to hear them all respond without hesitation, “Our Motherland”. What a queer world it is!’62 Assimilation was at once inevitable and quaint.

At the end of the tour there was time for the girls to reflect upon and consolidate their experiences. The girls were split into three groups, each to spend a week at one or other of McGill, Toronto and Queen’s Universities, where special courses on Canadian history and literature placed an emphasis on imperial progress, modernization, the superiority of Britain and a strong Canada within the British Empire. The courses arranged for them helped the girls in ‘focusing some of the ideas they had collected throughout the tour’.63 Cicely M. Nelson wrote about her courses at McGill: ‘Dr Cyrus Macmillan gave us two lectures on “Canada in Literature” which made us realize, I think for the first time, that Canadians are just as much heirs of Shakespeare as English people and that what we all really ought to work for is Empire literature.’64 The courses summarized the narrative of the tour more generally as a portrayal of what Canada had been, presently was and might be, shown to those who were ideally sought to create it. This was to be a Canada that mimicked Britain, and where all difference was subsumed into a strong modern nation within a united Empire.

The 1928 English Schoolgirl Tour of Canada demonstrates how the IODE created a narrative of Canadian history within the larger narrative of the Empire. The tour possessed all the qualities of the IODE’s earlier pageants and entertainments, making Canada seem as delicious as Okanagan peaches. Further, the IODE’s position in promoting Canada, from within the Empire, saw it utilizing British interests for its own benefit. The schoolgirls themselves became part of the narrative, and themselves provide insight into who was considered a desirable immigrant. As the girls discovered the Canadian environment and society, their multiple identities demonstrated the intersections of gender, class and race. The tour reveals the intricate politics of colonial identity in the interwar years where the everyday, the Canadian national and the British imperial divides were transgressed. Such politics were contingent upon the assumption by both the Canadian and the British government that Canada was best populated by British immigrants. The itinerary of the tour and the schoolgirls themselves document the production of British Canada within the larger narrative of the Empire. As the girls discovered the Canadian environment and society, they were simultaneously displayed and naturalized as the most suitable ‘stock’ to populate Canada. Their British and Anglo-Celtic status allowed access to a surprisingly masculine itinerary of commercial ‘progress’ and development.

The 1920s saw nationalism and imperialism modernize, with the schoolgirls’ experiences tied up in an era of technological improvement. If the hegemonic narrative represented in the tour was powerful, it was also more complicated than it appeared, being continually reconstituted and re-created in interacting spaces that cross-cut gender, race and class, as well as official boundaries. Most immediately, owing to the gendered maternal importance of women in both nation and Empire, it was the voluntary labours of the white Anglo-Celtic Canadian IODE at the ‘periphery’ that were responsible for the conduct of the tour. Representative of Anglo-Canadian hegemony, the IODE had the economic, social and cultural connections to plan and execute the tour. It also possessed an unfailing desire to populate Canada with British migrants, and was complicit in British plans for Empire settlement. As well as supporting the Empire’s unity, the IODE placed high hopes that on a micro level the tour would directly encourage British migration to Canada. In this sense the tour was a desperate measure by those with the resources to assert their vision, and it was testimony to the extensive effort that the IODE would expend in its attempt to populate Canada with British immigrants. It was an important moment, but one that would fade quickly as the Great Depression changed expectations and possibilities.


1 ‘Public school’ in Britain refers to private fee-paying schools, as opposed to the ‘free’ schools of the state system. The schools were: Bishop Fox’s School, Taunton; Cheltenham; Christ’s Hospital; Grassendale; Huyton College, Liverpool; Royal School, Bath; Rodean; Sherborne; St Mary’s, Calne; St George’s, Harpenden; St Paul’s; St Felix; Wycombe Abbey; Watford Grammar School; and Woodford Green School. Most of the schools were in the south of England. Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 9.
2 ‘The story of the English School Girls’ Tour (taken from the diaries of the girls)’, Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 6.
3 Globe and Mail, 24 August 1928, 18 and 20; Daily Province, 21 September 1928, 12, and 23 September, 2; Regina Leader Post, 6 Sept 1928; Daily Colonist (Victoria), 23 September 1928, 7.
4 Leftist newspapers examined in reaching this conclusion included: Alberta Labour News; Canadian Labour Press; Hamilton Canadian Labour World; Canadian Trade Unionist; La Vie syndicale; and Young Worker.
5 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
6 Correspondence with Beatrice Scarr, 20 June 1994.
7 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
8 Avril M. C. Maddrell, ‘Empire, emigration and school geography: changing discourses of imperial citizenship, 1880–1925’, Journal of Historical Geography, 22: 4 (1996), 373–87.
9 J. A. Mangan, The Games Ethic and Imperialism Aspects of the Diffusion of an Ideal (Middlesex: Viking, 1985), 29. See also J. A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park (eds), From ‘Fair Sex’ to Feminism: Sport and the Socialisation of Women in the Industrial and Post-Industrial Eras (London and Totowa, NJ: Frank Cass, 1987).
10 Mangan, The Games Ethic, 29.
11 Ibid., 30.
12 SOSBW 15th Annual Report (1934), 16; and 16th Annual Report (1935), 10.
13 SOSBW 16th Annual Report (1935), 11.
14 SOSBW 17th Annual Report (1936), 10–11.
15 SOSBW 19th Annual Report (1939), 16.
16 NAC A–1054 MG28 I 336, 18. SOSBW 8th Annual Report (1927). From SOSBW records in the Fawcett Library (now the Women’s Library): ‘Readers will doubtless be familiar with a scheme under which a party of public schoolboys visited Australia in 1926. The remarkable success of that tour led to a suggestion being put forward by the Oversea Settlement Committee that the SOSBW should explore the possibilities of arranging one for girls from secondary schools.’
17 NAC MG28 I 17, 4, 2, 43, 2 November 1927, IODE National Executive Minutes.
18 Editorial, Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 5.
19 Correspondence with Beatrice King, 20 June 1994.
20 Echoes, 114 (December 1928).
21 Ibid.
22 John MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880–1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 3.
23 NAC MG28 I 17, 12, 1, 84, IODE National Meeting Minutes 1929.
24 Ibid.
25 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
26 NAC MG28 I 17, 12, 1, 84, IODE National Meeting Minutes 1929.
27 Dominic David Alessio, ‘Domesticating “the heart of the wild”’, 249.
28 Anna Davin, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’, History Workshop, 5 (1978), 9–64.
29 Veronica Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled: Lives of Girls and Women in English Canada 1919–1939 (Markham, London, and New York: Penguin, 1988).
30 Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars (London and New York: Routledge, 1991).
31 Morag Bell, ‘“The pestilence that walketh in darkness”’.
32 This is a common myth in Canadian identity. See Carl Berger, ‘The true north strong and free’, in Peter Russell (ed.), Nationalism in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966), 3–26.
33 Editorial, Echoes, 113 (October 1928), 5.
34 Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 9.
35 Ibid., 21. Sheila Keane’s diary, entry for 14 September, Banff and Lake Louise.
36 Ibid., 22. Mary E. Short’s diary, entry for Toronto–Niagara.
37 Karen Dubinsky, ‘Vacations in the “contact zone”’, 262. Also see Karen Dubinsky, The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls (Between the Lines: Toronto, 1999).
38 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
39 Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 7. Audrey Fletcher’s diary.
40 Ibid., 9.
41 Karen Dubinsky, Improper Advances: Rape and Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880–1929 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 148. Dubinsky suggests that at the time northern Ontario was considered a ‘superior physical environment’.
42 Correspondence with Beatrice Scarr, 20 June 1994.
43 NAC MG28 I 17, 12, 1, 1929 National Meeting Minutes.
44 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
45 Correspondence with Beatrice King, 20 June 1994.
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid.
48 Correspondence with Betty Bidder, 27 July 1994.
49 Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 22; Victoria–Jasper, 25 September.
50 Ibid., 6.
51 Ibid., 23, Rosamund Upcher’s diary.
52 Ibid., 7, Phyllis Carter’s diary.
53 Ibid., 9, broadcast.
54 Ibid., 22, Muriel Brown’s diary.
55 Ibid., 9, broadcast.
56 Ibid.
57 Ibid.
58 Ibid.
59 NAC MG28 I 17, 12, 1, 1929 National Meeting Minutes.
60 Echoes, 114 (December 1928), 9; broadcast.
61 Correspondence with Beatrice King, 20 June 1994.
62 Ibid.
63 Ibid.
64 Ibid., 23, Cicely M. Nelson’s diary.
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Female imperialism and national identity

The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire


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