Creating This Place

Creating This Place: Women, Family, and Class in St John's, 1900-1950

Linda Cullum
Marilyn Porter
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Creating This Place
    Book Description:

    The twentieth century witnessed both the formation of Newfoundland as a self-conscious national entity and the construction of distinct and self-aware middle and upper classes in its capital city. This interdisciplinary collection examines the key roles played by women in the creation of this state and society, and the essential influence that gender, ethnicity, and religion played in class relations. Shifting class relations were formed in the salient political events of the first half of the twentieth century in Newfoundland: the First World War, the suffrage movement, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and finally Newfoundland's contested entry into the Canadian Confederation. Creating This Place shows how upper-, middle-, and working-class worlds were established in the everyday work of women, as well as the ways in which the complex social boundaries of the period were constructed. Individual chapters explore issues such as women's work in religious and voluntary institutions, their struggle for voice, suffrage, and political change, work of domestic servants, and the construction of "proper" women and mothers through denominational education. Creating This Place adopts an innovative perspective on Newfoundland and Labrador that focuses on the often overlooked lives of urban women. Contributors include Sonja Boon (Memorial University), Linda Cullum (Memorial University), Margot Duley (University of Illinois at Springfield), Vicki Hallett (Memorial University), Jonathan Luedee (doctoral candidate, University of British Columbia), Bonnie Morgan (doctoral candidate, University of New Brunswick), Marilyn Porter (emerita, Memorial University), Karen Stanbridge (Memorial University), Helen Woodrow (Educational Planning and Design Associates and Harrish Press Publications).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9034-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. Creating This Place: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Creating This Place:Women, Family, and Class in St John’s, 1900–1950addresses a set of core, but usually neglected, questions about the twentieth-century formation of Newfoundland as a self-conscious national entity.¹ How might we understand gender relations in this formative period, in different class positions, different ethnicities and religious denominations, and in different family forms? What were the complex interactions and practices of these relations? How did ethnicity and/or religion shape class and gender relations? In what ways were upper- and middle-class worlds in St John’s constituted in and through the everyday work of women? How were those worlds...

  7. 1 Activist Anglicans and Rectors’ Wives: The Impact of Class and Gender on Women’s Church Work in St John’s
    (pp. 25-46)

    In November 1954, my mother, Marjorie Bullen, left her home in Mose Ambrose, Fortune Bay, to take a job as a domestic at the St John’s Sanatorium, a centre for the treatment of tuberculosis located on Topsail Road in the West End of the city. She was sixteen years old. Marjorie’s mother and two older sisters had been diagnosed with tuberculosis several years before, and at age fourteen, Marjorie became responsible for her mother’s household work, including the care of four younger siblings. When one of her sisters returned home from treatment, Marjorie decided a change was in order. Leo,...

  8. 2 A Class unto Itself: Phebe Florence Miller’s Outport Literary Salon
    (pp. 47-70)

    Phebe Florence Miller (1889–1979), poet and postmistress of Topsail, Conception Bay,³ was a mercurial woman who lived through some of the greatest political and cultural upheaval in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. During this time, Miller inhabited several places, both real and imagined, through her writing. This essay will serve as a discussion of one particular place that was of primary importance to Miller’s identity and writing life – her informal literary salon, dubbed the “Blue Castle.” The salon, created just after the end of the First World War, was held in her grandfather’s old house. In one...

  9. 3 Julia Salter Earle: Seeking Social Justice
    (pp. 71-88)

    At a labour meeting in 1921, St John’s cooper Michael Bennett declared that Julia Salter Earle’s name would go down in history for her efforts on behalf of working people.¹ Today, in Newfoundland schools, pupils learn about Salter Earle for her engagement in the 1925 municipal election, the first election in which women could run for political office in Newfoundland. She came within eleven votes of winning that seat, and as a result many associate her with the suffrage movement. Yet beneath the veneer of that historical moment was a woman who devoted her energies to the struggles for social...

  10. 4 Below Stairs: Domestic Service in Twentieth-Century St John’s
    (pp. 89-113)

    In this chapter I explore the work and social contribution of domestic servants working in St John’s between 1900 and 1950. These women, and some men,² facilitated the lives of many middle- and upper-class individuals and families. Whether minding children, cooking, cleaning, washing, or “doing it all,” female domestic servants played an important role in the structure, operation, and social relations of the family as a whole. Their work supported aspects of the social and public life of the city as well, underpinned the family’s social standing in the community, and created an important temporal space for women of the...

  11. 5 Armine Nutting Gosling: A Full and Useful Life
    (pp. 114-145)

    A sustained study of Harriette Armine Nutting Gosling (1861–1942) is overdue. She provided intrepid intellectual and organizational leadership to the suffrage generation. In her biography of her husband, William Gilbert Gosling, the reformist mayor of St John’s, Armine minimized her own role as a leader.¹ This chapter examines the personal factors that shaped her activism, her progressive ideology, and her gradual emergence as a feminist leader and senior stateswoman in her adopted homeland. It also delineates her role in several important social reforms, pre-eminently women’s suffrage, but also child and animal welfare. Beyond her personal importance, her life illustrates...

  12. 6 “She Knows Who She Is”: Educating Girls to Their Place in Society
    (pp. 146-178)

    The redoubtable Miss Violet Cherrington, head mistress of Bishop Spencer College from 1922 to 1952, announced at a school assembly in 1951: “A Spencer girl has been seen wearing dungarees; she knows who she is; Spencer girls do not wear dungarees, unless she is working in the garden or performing some other menial task, but certainly not on Harvey Road on a Saturday afternoon.”¹ Bishop Spencer girls certainly did know who they were, and what their projected role in society was, but this self-awareness did not come naturally. They, like all children, had to be trained to accept a certain...

  13. 7 “It’s Up to the Women”: Gender, Class, and Nation Building in Newfoundland, 1935–1945
    (pp. 179-201)

    Women contribute in countless ways to the social, economic, and political life of communities and nations. Their hard work in community voluntary organizations, in particular, has shaped the lives of their fellow citizens in diverse ways. In this chapter, I consider the dynamic construction of class and gender relations between upper- and middle-class urban and working-class rural women during the formation processes of state and nation in Newfoundland in the 1930s and 1940s.³ The ideal of woman as a gendered and classed subject and citizen is expressed through the organizational practices of one voluntary organization, the Jubilee Guilds of Newfoundland,...

  14. 8 Thrift and the Good Child Citizen: The Junior Thrift Clubs in Confederation-Era Newfoundland
    (pp. 202-220)

    In December 1944, James Murdoch, an officer in the Department of Finance of the Commission Government, reported in theNewfoundland Government Bulletin(hereafter,ngb) that the very successful War Savings Program that had operated in island schools since 1942 would be replaced by a new initiative.¹ No longer were children to be encouraged to save their pennies to purchase War Savings Stamps to raise funds in support of the Allied effort. Now, wrote Murdoch, they were to buy and collect savings stamps towards opening their own accounts in the Newfoundland Savings Bank. And so began government promotion and support of...

  15. 9 “I Am Very Badly in Need of Help”: Promises and Promissory Notes in Women’s Letters to J.R. Smallwood
    (pp. 221-242)

    In the years immediately surrounding Confederation in 1949, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador sent many hundreds of letters to Joseph R. Smallwood, the new premier of Canada’s tenth province. These letters, which form an important part of the J.R. Smallwood Collection at Memorial University,² deal with a diverse range of issues from work to health to communications networks and electricity, and offer unique insights into the day-to-day concerns of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at mid-century. The majority of these letters were written by men. However, a substantial number of working- or middle class-women also wrote to the premier. Writing as...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 243-296)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-326)
  18. Index
    (pp. 327-336)
  19. Contributors
    (pp. 337-338)