Fashioning Imperial Identities in Girls’ Scrapbooks

Elizabeth Dillenburg, The Ohio State University at Newark

My paper uses scrapbooks created by members of the Girls’ Friendly Society (GFS) as a lens to examine girls’ complex and often contradictory roles in the British colonial project. My paper begins by describing the content of the scrapbooks and how these books provided girls with a rare forum where they could share their perspectives and experiences of colonial life. The photographs, drawings, and essays within the scrapbooks give singular insights into how girls viewed the empire and their place in it and also reveal the ways in which girls appropriated and reproduced wider colonial discourses. In the second part of my paper, I focus on the purpose of these scrapbooks and how they formed one part of the GFS’s extensive and multifaceted empire education program. Organizers envisioned that the creation and exchange of the books would stimulate interest in the empire and cultivate feelings of comradery and familiarity among girls in disparate parts of the empire, which in turn would translate into a desire among girls to emigrate and settle in the colonies. However, the task of empire building proved more difficult than the organizers had envisioned, and my paper addresses the difficulties faced by the GFS in implementing its emigration and education programs. I conclude by reflecting on how these scrapbooks can both enrich and complicate our understandings of girls’ roles in the empire and the broader challenges of researching and writing about the history of girlhood and working in the colonial archive.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 233. Negotiating Imperial and Racial Identities and Spaces in Albums and Scrapbooks