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Mothers of the Municipality

Mothers of the Municipality: Women, Work, and Social Policy in Post-1945 Halifax

Judith Fingard
Janet Guildford
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Mothers of the Municipality
    Book Description:

    Mothers of the Municipalityexplores women's activism and the provision of services at the community level. If the adage "think globally; act locally" has any application in modern history, it is with the women who fought many of the battles in the larger war for social justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2746-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Abigail (Abbie) Amanda Jacques Lane served as city alderman, representing Ward 2 in Halifax from 1951 to 1965. She attributed her first win to a ‘kitchen’ campaign led and staffed by housewives, and her career at City Hall was characterized by her commitment to housekeeping and mothering the municipality. She served on welfare, housing, and recreation committees and was appointed to library, school, and hospital boards. She advocated slum clearance and affordable rental housing, a public library for the North End, new kitchen equipment for the City Home (the poorhouse and mental hospital), and the appointment of a dog catcher....

  5. Women’s Organizations: The Heart and Soul of Women’s Activism
    (pp. 25-48)

    At the 2000 conference of the Atlantic Council of the Canadian Federation of University Women, delegates expressed concern for the future of women’s voluntary organizations. They cited such factors as the aging of the current membership and the lack of time available to younger, working women because of their family obligations and career pressures. One member opined, ‘Young women today work during the day and parent and house-keep at night. When do they have time to take on issues such as education and legislation and status of women?’ Yet not all delegates made bleak predictions, and most felt that women’s...

  6. The End of the Poor Law: Public Welfare Reform in Nova Scotia before the Canada Assistance Plan
    (pp. 49-75)

    Historically, destitute women – especially deserted or widowed women with children, and aged or disabled women – have been categorized as part of what has been described as ‘the deserving poor.’ In the first half of the twentieth century, poor women continued to be the major ‘beneficiaries’ of public poor relief and private charity, despite the introduction of mothers’ allowances, old age pensions, and better jobs. Although the course of welfare history was not determined solely by problems confronting women, reforms at the provincial level had an enormous impact on women and their children. That is why an examination of the development...

  7. Democracy, Dollars, and the Children’s Aid Society: The Eclipse of Gwendolen Lantz
    (pp. 76-109)

    The 1950s are quite rightly seen as a period of social conservatism, coloured by Canadians’ passion for a ‘normal’ life after decades of war and hard times. But in some aspects of Canadian life, the end of war ushered in welcome – even exciting – change, rather than a comfortable return to a safe past. For welfare work, whether private social work or publicly funded health and welfare programs, a return to normal at the end of the war was unthinkable. If ‘normal’ means familiar and comforting, if ‘normal’ refers to a formula for success that had been only temporarily disrupted by...

  8. Managing the Unmarried Mother ‘Problem’: Halifax Maternity Homes
    (pp. 110-140)

    Although Nova Scotia had the dubious distinction of being the province with the highest illegitimacy rate in Canada, local social service agencies were slow to respond to this remarkable and as yet unexplained demographic phenomenon. Before 1950 Nova Scotians did not amend the punitive contents of the bastardy law (only its name was changed to the more modern Illegitimate Children’s Act in 1905), reform the inadequate paternal support provisions of the Poor Law, or extend state support to single mothers. As a result, outsiders were openly critical. In 1933, Charlotte Whitton, executive secretary of the Canadian Welfare Council, drew national...

  9. The ‘Right Kind’ of Single Mothers: Nova Scotia’s Regulation of Women on Social Assistance, 1956–1977
    (pp. 141-168)

    Nova Scotia’s new Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, proclaimed on 1 August 2001, eliminated impoverished maternity as a cause of need for social assistance. This disentitlement posed immediate and serious financial consequences for all state-assisted single mothers: an average 10 per cent lower benefit rate; loss of a higher proportion of their earnings from paid employment; further restrictions on transportation, dental coverage, child care, and postsecondary education; and cessation of a dedicated allowance for their children. The non-financial consequences were as drastic: monthly monitoring; mandatory employment assessments and programs with only passing reference to maternity and child care as...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. From Infant Homes to Daycare: Child Care in Halifax
    (pp. 169-188)

    The 2000 Nova Scotia budget dealt severe reductions to many areas of social spending, including education, hospitals, and social assistance. In the midst of $192 million worth of cuts, one of the few areas where spending actually increased was daycare, with the addition of one hundred new subsidized spaces created to help parents – read mothers – ‘get back to work.’¹ In a time of restraint and cutback, the government’s decision to support daycare is in keeping with its objectives of the last thirty years and conforms to a longer tradition of institutional support to keep women and their children off public...

  12. Black Women at Work: Race, Family, and Community in Greater Halifax
    (pp. 189-225)

    After the Second World War, a common scene at the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry terminals was a group of Black women socializing as they waited to cross the harbour or for a ride to take them home. They were working women from eastern Halifax County, making the long journey to and from their employment as domestics. In order to understand their experiences and those of their co-workers to the west of the Halifax peninsula, we interviewed a dozen older women who had earned their living for varying lengths of time as day cleaners.¹ When most of them started work in the 1940s...

  13. ‘Home Nursing Has Continued to Present Problems ...’ The St John Ambulance Home Nursing Program in Nova Scotia
    (pp. 226-252)

    In 1966 Margaret Hunter, chief nursing officer for the St John Ambulance Association and Brigade in Canada, visited Halifax to promote the association’s program in home nursing. While in the city she declared, in an interview reported in the local press, ‘[we] need ... to teach the public to be able to look after themselves and know what to do when sickness strikes in a home.’¹ The members of the Nova Scotia Council of St John welcomed Hunter’s visit and the profile her words gave the home nursing program.² Although St John Ambulance could take pride in a seventy-five-year record...

  14. ‘A Grandly Subversive Time’: The Halifax Branch of the Voice of Women in the 1960s
    (pp. 253-280)

    When peace talks in Paris collapsed in the spring of 1960, and Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union escalated, Lotta Dempsey, a columnist for theToronto Star, had had enough. ‘What can women do?’ she asked. Would women not speak out about the threat of nuclear war? Heeding Dempsey’s challenge, Canadian women deluged her desk with letters and even telephoned, asserting that they were ready to take action. Thinking along similar lines, the mixed-gender Toronto Committee for Disarmament (later a branch of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or CND), in which women played a key role, organized...

  15. A Fragile Independence: The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
    (pp. 281-304)

    The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women (NSACSW) was, like its counterparts at the national level and in other provinces, a response to theReport of the Royal Commission on the Status of Womenpublished in 1970. Since its creation in 1977, the NSACSW has conducted research on the status of women and provided advice and information to successive provincial governments, as well as a variety of services to women and women’s organizations.¹ It has had to negotiate complex relationships among governments and women’s groups, and has constantly tested the limits of its autonomy – with very mixed...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 305-306)
  17. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 307-308)
  18. Index
    (pp. 309-318)