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Discordant Voices: Vancouver’s Scots Community and the Janet Smith Case, 1924

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
On July 26, 1924, Scottish nanny Janet Smith was found dead in a house in Point Grey, then an independent district south of Vancouver. Chinese houseboy Wong Foon Sing was accused of her murder and the Janet Smith case quickly became a focus for the existing racial tensions in the Vancouver area. This thesis uses primary sources to investigate the reaction of Vancouver’s Scottish community to the death of Janet Smith. It locates the Janet Smith case within recent historical scholarship that separates the Scottish diaspora experience from the British diaspora experience, while also countering hagiographical treatments of the Scots abroad. The thesis examines two seemingly paradoxical Scots reactions to Janet Smith. First, the unity of the Scottish community’s response, symbolised initially by the leading role played by the United Scottish Societies, collapsed under the strain of internal divisions. The Janet Smith case highlighted a fragmented sense of Scottish identity in Vancouver and revealed different civic, provincial and national visions within the city’s Scottish community. Second, this internal disunity existed alongside an unconscious broad range of shared assumptions about power and where it should lie as the Scots patrolled the borders of their ethnic authority against a critical threat from “other”. In this respect they succeeded in preserving a system of “inclusion” and “exclusion” beyond the Janet Smith years.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Little, Jack
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