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Sisters or Strangers?

Sisters or Strangers?: Immigrant, Ethnic, and Racialized Women in Canadian History

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Sisters or Strangers?
    Book Description:

    Using a variety of theoretical approaches, this collaborative work reminds us that victimization and agency are never mutually exclusive, and encourages us to reflect critically on the categories of race, gender, and the nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2742-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    In 1862, Mary Hodges was one of sixty working-class British women who arrived in British Columbia aboard the shipTynemouth. She was part of an imperial immigration agenda to ‘whiten’ and ‘feminize’ the West Coast by importing single women as domestic servants and potential brides. Not all the women acted according to plan, however. When she admitted to having ‘been around the sexual block,’ Mary Hodges soon found her moral respectability under question. Her Anglo character was also undermined once she elected to reveal her Jewish identity and changed her name to Esther Hurst. Over half a century later, as...

  5. Part 1: Nation-Building and Discourses of Race

    • Turning Strangers into Sisters? Missionaries and Colonization in Upper Canada
      (pp. 23-48)

      ‘Having witnessed the degraded and filthy conditions of the Indians when they lived in their Weg-ke-wams,’ wrote Methodist missionary Philander Smith, ‘I felt a desire to examine their domestic economy in theirhouses; accompanied by Mrs. Hurlbut we visited most of the females.’ Smith, who was staying at the Native community of Methodist converts on Grape Island in the Bay of Quinte, was writing to the denominational newspaper, theChristian Guardian, in the fall of 1830. On visiting their homes, Smith and Mrs Hurlbut viewed Native peoples engaged in a variety of activities, such as moccasin- and clothes-making and wood-working....

    • Whose Sisters and What Eyes? White Women, Race, and Immigration to British Columbia, 1849–1871
      (pp. 49-70)

      White female immigration was an issue that garnered substantial popular attention in colonial British Columbia. It did so because it spoke deeply to that settler society’s concerns about race and gender. Analyzing the movement that orchestrated the immigration and the migrants it sponsored suggests that historians need to revise the critical framework usually employed in much of the existing literature on women’s immigration to Canada. Historians especially need to recognize and interrogate the significance of race to the lives of all female immigrants, including white ones. Acknowledging the significance of race in turn leads to a questioning of assumptions of...

    • Racializing Imperial Canada: Indian Women and the Making of Ethnic Communities
      (pp. 71-86)

      In postcolonial formations, the existence of ethnic immigrant communities has been taken for granted. While these communities often have been portrayed as a natural response to the inclusion of ‘immigrants’ into Western societies, this essay illustrates that their emergence needs to be placed in the context of imperial and national struggles over the racial composition of white settler societies. In addition, I demonstrate that it has been through such struggles that female migrants from India have been racialized and gendered as creators of ethnic social spaces.

      The first two women from India migrated to Canada in 1912. Although Kartar Kaur...

  6. Part 2: Gender, Race, and Justics

    • Killing the Black Female Body: Black Womanhood, Black Patriarchy, and Spousal Murder in Two Ontario Criminal Trials, 1892–1894
      (pp. 89-107)

      In recent years much has been written about family violence in Ontario,¹ though few, if any, of the critical insights born out of this body of work have been applied to the writing of the history of domestic, familial, and gender relations among African Canadians. In an effort to contribute to African-Canadian feminist historiography, and to the writing of gender and the law into the history of ‘blackness’ in Canada and, more broadly speaking, in the Black Atlantic world,² this article examines black womanhood and its relationship to the ‘residual patriarchy’³ enjoyed and exercised by black men in Ontario. The...

    • The Tale of Lin Tee: Madness, Famity Violence, and Lindsay’s Anti-Chinese Riot of 1919
      (pp. 108-130)
      LISA R. MAR

      On 31 January 1919, Lin Tee’s attempts to escape an abusive marriage so divided the town of Lindsay, Ontario, that residents took justice into their own hands in a violent night of racial terror. A lynch mob of five hundred white men and boys targeted Lin’s husband, Lee Ten Yun, a Chinese immigrant laundry worker. The rioters knew Lee confined his wife at home. They often had heard her screams and many believed that Lee prostituted his insane wife out to other Chinese men against her will. That morning a neighbour claimed to have seen her standing on a bed...

  7. Part 3: Immigrant Working-Class Women Encounter the State

    • In Search of Comfort and Independence: Irish Immigrant Domestic Servants Encounter the Courts, Jails, and Asylums in Ninteenth-Century Ontario
      (pp. 133-160)

      In nineteenth-century Ontario, domestic servants were predominantly Irish, but most Irish women who worked as servants have remained anonymous shadowy figures in the historical record. One notable exception is Grace Marks, the subject of Margaret Atwood’s prize-winning novelAlias Grace.¹ Previously, historian Susan Houston also used Grace Marks as a case study in an article examining how gender affected the construction of youthful criminal behaviour in the mid-nineteenth century.² Not only has Grace Marks received recent literary and historical attention, but she was even better known to Canadians in the mid-nineteenth century, being extensively reported in newspapers and written about...

    • Canadian Citizens or Dangerous Foreign Women? Canada’s Radical Conumer Movement, 1947–1950
      (pp. 161-189)

      In May 1947, the Housewives Consumers Association (HCA), a recently formed group of progressive women from differing political backgrounds, including the ‘ethnic’ left, caught the nation’s attention when it organized a children’s boycott to protest a sudden and precipitous hike in the price of candy bars. A brilliant media strategy, the children’s chocolate bar boycott delivered in dramatic fashion the intended message – inflation hurt children and families. It also garnered support among a wide cross-section of Canadians for the HCA’s demand that the federal Liberal government return wartime price and rent controls and enact other policies to help struggling working-class...

    • Jell-O Salads, One-Stop Shopping, and Maria the Homemaker: The Gender Politics of Food
      (pp. 190-230)

      Food is about more than recipes, cooking, nutrition, and eating. The practices surrounding its purchase, preparation, and consumption have long been a matter of conflict and contest. Food campaigns have been the site of clashes and accommodations between health professionals and beleaguered mothers told to forsake folk routines to ‘scientific’ regimes; between food fashion-makers and discerning or ostentatious culinary consumers; and between gatekeepers of receiving societies and immigrants bearing allegedly exotic or offensive cuisine and smells. Forced to consider our own food habits, many might see them as a matter of personal choice, yet such claims overlook the ways in...

  8. Part 4: Immigrants, Gender, and Familial Relations

    • Japanese Pioneer Women: Fighting Racism and Rearing the Next Generation
      (pp. 233-247)

      For years, the social history of certain cultural groups in Canada was ignored. As Franca Iacovetta wrote in 1997: ‘little has been written about Asian Canadians as historical actors rather than as objects of scorn.’¹ The few books on Japanese-Canadian history that exist, written by both Japanese Canadians and others, stress victimization, racism, exploitation, and, most prevalent of all, the group’s internment and economic destruction during the Second World War.² Yet, to fully understand the lives of the Japanese Canadians, it is necessary to understand that they were dynamic actors who made active decisions when dealing with social and political...

    • Odars and ‘Other’: Intermarriage and the Retention of Armenian Ethnic Identity
      (pp. 248-265)

      Shortly after I took up my professorship in Fresno, California, a student asked me if I was a half-breed or a full-blooded Armenian. A few weeks later a local resident referred to her grandchildren as mongrels. These terms and all that they implied not only disturbed me but complicated my attempts to determine the number of Armenians in various California communities. How, after all, does one define an Armenian in the diaspora, especially one distantly removed from the immigrant generation? I had wrestled with this issue before, when I wrote the history of Armenians in Canada, and at that time...

    • Sisterhood versus Discrimination: Being a Black African Francophone Immigrant Woman in Montreal and Torono
      (pp. 266-284)

      This article examines the situation of immigrant women of African origin who live in Toronto and Montreal. In particular, it focuses on these women’s experiences of gender relations in the Canadian context, both within and beyond the domestic sphere. From this perspective, the paper also explores the rapport between these women and other women who do not belong to the African community.

      African immigrant women are part of the new wave of migration to Canada that began in the 1970s. Indeed, the new wave of migration is characterized by the arrival of increasing numbers of people from Third World countries...

  9. Part 5: Symbols and Representations

    • Propaganda and Identity Construction: Media Representation in Canada of Finnish and Finnish-Canadian Women during the Winter War of 1939–1940
      (pp. 287-313)

      Small ethnic groups in Canada have rarely been at the centre of media attention. If they have found their activities described in major Canadian dailies, the news has usually been negative or sensational in nature. During the Depression, the Finns, like many other European immigrants in Canada, grew accustomed to bad press about their community. The media reported on arrests of radical labour leaders, trials of Finnish strikers, demonstrators, communists, newspaper editors, and deportation cases – and they did so in ways that demonized left immigrant workers as ‘dangerous foreigners.’¹ Such lopsided coverage hardly increased Canadians’ understanding of ethnic communities nor...

    • The Semiotics of Zwieback: Feast and Famine in the Narratives of Mennonite Refugee Women
      (pp. 314-340)

      Nearly fifty years ago, a prominent American sociologist of the Mennonites wrote a popular booklet about Mennonite beliefs and customs. In a section devoted to culinary practices, he noted the reputation of Mennonite women for good cooking, suggested that ‘they eat well’ and as evidence of it, noted their lack of concern for waistlines.¹ Images of contented, indeed jolly, robust Mennonite women whipping up huge batches of borscht, pie, and buns come to mind. Slim Mennonite women who are not especially inclined towards cooking, or those who well remember homeland experiences of famine, may chafe at such stereotyping of both...

    • The Mother of God Wears a Maple Leaf: History, Gender, and Ethnic Identity in Sacred Space
      (pp. 341-362)

      Since the mid-1990s worshippers in Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic church in northeast Edmonton have prayed before an icon called ‘Our Lady of Canada,’ in which the Mother of God wears a mantle embroidered in gold, red-veined maple leaves. Traditionally, Christ’s instruments of torture (the spear, the vinegar-soaked sponge on a rod, the crown of thorns, the cross) appear in the upper corners of such icons. But here a red-robed angel on the left and a blue-robed angel on the right each hold a golden globe: one features a map of Canada, the other a red maple leaf.¹ The Mother of...

  10. Part 6: History and Memory

    • Camp Naivelt and the Daughters of the Jewish Left
      (pp. 365-380)

      On 6 August 2000, Camp Naivelt (New World), located in El Dorado Park on the outskirts of Brampton, Ontario, celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. The children’s camp, Kinderland (Children’s Land), closed its doors in 1962, but Naivelt, the sister community where the adults had cottages, remains. With the memory fresh in my mind of my own Camp Kinderland reunion in New York in May 1999, I participated in the planning for this Canadian event. I attended Camp Kinderland in Poughkeepsie, New York, from 1949 to 1956 at the height of the Cold War. Although political events in the United States, such...

    • Experience and Identity: Blackn Immigrant Nurses to Canada, 1950–1980
      (pp. 381-398)

      Scholarship on Caribbean migration has dealt primarily with the economic factors that precipitated migration. A common argument is that conditions of economic uncertainty in the Caribbean region in the post–Second World War era prompted people to migrate in search of a better life. For those able and willing to move, immigration served as a means to economic and social mobility.¹ Studies on contemporary migration to Canada focus on how the Canadian state encourages migration when there is a demand for labour and on how immigrants are funnelled into menial and unskilled work. Included in these analyses is an examination...

    • Survivng Their Survival: Women, Memory, and the Holocaust
      (pp. 399-414)

      What does it mean to be a survivor of the Holocaust?¹ This is the question that has informed my research over the years, as I’ve listened to hundreds of Canadian survivors recount their life stories. As a scholar collecting, on both audio and video tapes, the stories of individuals who experienced the Holocaust, and as a Holocaust educator who has presented these stories to numerous audiences, I have learned that this particular history is not static, and that its implications continue to resonate in the lives of those who lived through it. For understanding and presenting history includes exploring and...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 415-418)
  12. Credits
    (pp. 419-420)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 421-422)