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The Infinite Bonds of Family

The Infinite Bonds of Family: Domesticity in Canada, 1850-1940

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Infinite Bonds of Family
    Book Description:

    With this book, Cynthia Comacchio presents the first historical overview of domestic life in Canada, showing how families have both changed and remained the same, through transitions brought about by urbanization, industrialization, and war.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8149-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Thinking Historically about Canadian Families
    (pp. 3-12)

    In a hurried few pages, a young man newly arrived in Canada in the early years of the twentieth century wrote to his mother in Italy. Sketching some details about his life and work here, he closed with a filial declaration that, with variations in phrasing, must have comforted many a faraway family: ‘Only God can know when we will see each other again, but the infinite bonds of family keep you and my brothers and sisters always with me.’ Across the distance, his mother and siblings undoubtedly understood the love, longing, and sense of duty embodied in those bonds....

  5. Part I: Making the New Nation:: Domestic Adjustments, 1850–1914

    • 1 The New Order: Socio-economic Changes and Family Relations
      (pp. 15-47)

      Between the second half of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, a new nation was created and set on a dynamic developmental path. A predominantly family-based agrarian economy, in which men, women, and children all played distinct but interdependent productive roles, shifted into one featuring mechanized, male-dominated production. Industry grew and cities expanded as the labour market responded to rural out-migration and immigration from overseas. By 1900, there were 70,000 factories in Canada; 60 per cent of the labour force was non-agricultural. During the so-called second industrial revolution commencing with the new century,...

    • 2 Mending Crisis-Torn Families: Reform and Regulation
      (pp. 48-62)

      As we have seen, by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, changes in production and social organization were demanding certain adjustments on the part of Canadian families, and also fuelling public anxieties. Worried observers feared that industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, if left unregulated, might disrupt their comfortable neighbourhoods, and that they would be powerless to protect their ‘Canadian’ families from what they invariably saw as negative influences. Fears about social degeneration were inflamed by the mass arrival of immigrant families, their high birth rate relative to the decreasing size of ‘Canadian’ families, and continuing high infant mortality. Since women’s...

  6. Part II: A New Day for Families:: Modernizing Domesticity, 1914–1930

    • 3 War and Reconstruction: ‘Normalcy’ and Its Discontents
      (pp. 65-89)

      When it began in August 1914, the Great War offered Canadians little sense that it was a ‘turning point.’ Because of a severe pre-war recession, many of the initial volunteers for overseas service were motivated not only by patriotism, but by the prospect of regular earnings. About 68,000 Canadian men would never see their homes again. Other disasters forced upwards the numbers of stricken families during the war years. In December 1917, more than two square kilometres of Halifax’s north end were blown away after a French ship carrying explosives detonated in its harbour. Sixteen hundred died, mostly in the...

    • 4 New Model Families: Science and State Intervention
      (pp. 90-110)

      The Great War renewed calls upon the state to do something about the toll taken by modern industry and modern warfare, as witnessed in damaged health, ‘broken’ families, juvenile delinquency, and the prospects of social breakdown. The war’s horrendous casualties also focused attention on the population as a biological resource, legitimizing arguments about state intervention to counter those losses through healthy families. Reformist and professional organizations, women’s and labour groups, demanded the creation of special government agencies dedicated to assisting families, especially children, now regarded as precious ‘national assets.’ The most important of these government initiatives was the Canadian Council...

  7. Part III: Facing the Wall:: Enduring the Great Depression

    • 5 Families in Distress: Surviving the ‘Dirty Thirties’
      (pp. 113-148)

      The Depression lore of Canada is replete with family tragedies. In 1934, a Winnipeg woman on relief drowned her eighteen-month-old son, strangled her five-year-old daughter, and poisoned herself with germicide bought on credit from a drugstore. A Ukrainian immigrant was sentenced to three months in prison for killing a moose and her calf to feed his family of six. Refusing the sterilization that was also part of his penalty, he was deported with his family. When his small business failed like so many others, a lumberyard manager in Camrose, Alberta, shot and killed his wife and two daughters, then drowned...

  8. Conclusion: The Infinite Bonds of Family, 1850–1940
    (pp. 149-156)

    To return to our metaphor, several ‘punctuation’ points shook Canadian families at certain moments over the course of the near-century between 1850 and 1940, unsettling the lives of individual family members as well as that of the group, and obliging them to find ways to restore equilibrium. Each, in turn, sparked structural changes that were met by familial adaptations. In addition to jolting families in their own way, the Industrial Revolution, the Great War, and the Great Depression accelerated trends that moved families incrementally, along a jagged path, to a recognizably ‘modern’ form by the middle of the twentieth century....

  9. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 157-170)
  10. Index
    (pp. 171-180)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)