A Silent Revolution?

A Silent Revolution?: Gender and Wealth in English Canada, 1860-1930

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    A Silent Revolution?
    Book Description:

    Peter Baskerville situates women in their immediate gendered and familial environments as well as within broader legal, financial, spatial, temporal, and historiographical contexts. He analyses women's probates, wills, land ownership, holdings of real and chattel mortgages, investment in stocks and bonds, and self employment, revealing that women controlled wealth to an extent similar to that of most men and invested and managed wealth in increasingly similar, and in some cases more aggressive, ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7445-8
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    A traditional literature has argued that from the early nineteenth century to at least the end of the Victorian era, urban middle-and even working-class married women were best understood as operating in spheres separate from those of men.¹ A married woman’s place was in the home as a helpmate to her husband. It is not hard to find nineteenth-century commentaries in support of such an interpretation. Indeed, the “separate spheres” ideology underlay much gender discourse in late nineteenth-century Canada. “Scripture does map out woman’s sphere of life,” the editor of the TorontoMailproclaimed in May 1893; “it confers upon...

  5. 1 Gender, Wealth, and Investment: Victoria and Hamilton, 1869–1931
    (pp. 17-54)

    Catherine Kreamer, a widow, died in Hamilton in October 1891. Her will, handwritten by herself twelve years earlier, decreed that her daughter should receive “$125 and the bedding and equipage in the bedroom ... and a fashionable bedstead shall be bought for her ... Also a breakfast table, rocking chair and six common chairs, the center table, the Looking Glass, the musical instrument, the Bureau, two sofa pillows and a vase of flowers. She is also to have the classic dishes out of the cupboard and the silver spoons likewise some cheap dishes, knives and forks and a cow.” Mrs...

  6. 2 Inheriting and Bequeathing: Women and Men in Victoria and Hamilton, 1880–1930
    (pp. 55-75)

    Clearly, women had assets that they could bequeath: 32 per cent of those who owned probated property at their time of death in 1900 were women in the two cities examined closely in this study. By 1930 that percentage had risen to 42. What, then, do bequeathment trends in wills by both men and women indicate regarding women’s empowerment? A study of inheritance patterns can add to our understanding of the social relations of property. Probates provide detailed enumerations of wealth-holding at a specific point in a person’s and a family’s life cycle. Wills supply a context within which to...

  7. 3 The Gender of Shareholders: Investment in Banking and Insurance Stocks in Ontario, 1860–1911
    (pp. 76-92)

    The probate data that we analyzed in chapter 1 suggested that women were active as holders of stocks in financial and a range of other companies. We then looked, in chapter 2, at how women and men bequeathed their wealth. One of the arguments put forward in that chapter was that bequeathment patterns increasingly enabled younger, single women as well as married women in this time period. The probate data already examined are suggestive and generally supportive of that contention in the sense of the changing nature of assets owned by women and in the sense that the general asset...

  8. 4 The “fountain-head of all production”: Land and Gender in Victoria and Hamilton, 1881–1901
    (pp. 93-121)

    In 1994 Royal LePage, a large Canadian real estate company, trumpeted in its issue of theHomeownerthat single women had moved ahead of their male counterparts in home buying. “Clearly,” the article concluded, “women believe in home ownership as a solid investment.” Ten years later the company noted that women were becoming “an increasingly significant part of the market ... [They] are using their purchasing power to invest in real estate and have little trepidation about doing it alone.”¹ Yet such activity was hardly as revolutionary as these and other similar reports imply. A century earlier, in one of...

  9. 5 Stretching the Liberal State: Legal Regimes, Gender, and Mortgage Markets in Victoria and Hamilton, 1881–1921
    (pp. 122-162)

    Mortgages were key financial instruments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Stock markets were only just emerging; so land and mortgages were convenient and generally well-understood markets for the investment and raising of capital. To the extent that land was the major part of most families’ wealth-holding, the mortgage market probably represented the major source for credit for most families in this period. Clearly, purchasing property was the single biggest pursuit underwritten by mortgage capital. Yet, as the TorontoGlobeaverred in 1870, “there may be twenty very cogent reasons why a man should [take out a mortgage].”...

  10. 6 Gender, Credit, and Consumption: The Market for Chattels in Victoria, 1861–1902
    (pp. 163-189)

    In chapter 1 we pointed to the care with which women enumerated their personal belongings in their wills. At the same time we noted that personal belongings made up only a small part of a woman’s total wealth at the time of her death. In the late nineteenth century, personal goods constituted 14 per cent of the estates of Victoria women, and they declined dramatically to an overall average of 3.3 per cent of wealth after 1905 (see figure 6.1).¹ The change in the relative worth of personal belongings, of course, nicely reflects the evolving nature of women’s wealth in...

  11. 7 Canadian Urban Women in Business
    (pp. 190-221)

    “Of what earthly use is business life to a woman, anyway,” E.B.B.R. mused in the April 1907 edition of theFinancial Post. The answer, arrived at “after a long time thinking hard,” is revealing on at least two levels. First, for this writer, as for many others in the late nineteenth century, “business women” meant white-collar office workers: “a young woman going ... into business life…enters an office [where she] learns early the value of money, of time, of concentration of thought.” For E.B.B.R, this step outside the home was positive: “She must take her mind off home affairs and...

  12. 8 “A Retail Dry Goods Merchant on My Own Separate Account”: Gender and Family Enterprise in Urban Canada at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 222-235)

    In Ontario in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, sole proprietorship and partnership firms were required to register their businesses with the land registrar of the county in which the business office was located. Jane Kerr, a fifty-year-old married woman in Hamilton, registered A.R. Kerr and Company in January 1900. When asked by the registrar what her relationship to the business was, she declared in no uncertain terms: “a retail dry goods merchant on my own separate account. I am the only member of the firm.”¹ On 12 April 1901 H.G. McMahon, the census enumerator for ward 2 in Hamilton, recorded...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 236-248)

    This work has explored how close to four thousand women in Victoria, British Columbia, and nearly six thousand women in Hamilton, Ontario, managed aspects of their wealth in an era when women were not normally thought to be in a position to manage much wealth.¹ Where feasible, attempts have been made to situate these women in their immediate gendered and familial environments and within broader legal, financial, spatial, temporal, and historiographical contexts. Focusing on these women (and a larger number of men) in two urban communities, often over a period of some sixty years, and wherever possible, putting these comparative...

  14. APPENDIX ONE: The Gendered Nature of Sources for the Calculation of Property Ownership Trends
    (pp. 251-253)
  15. APPENDIX TWO: The Construction of Tables 4.7 to 4.10
    (pp. 254-255)
  16. APPENDIX THREE: Property Ownership by Relation to Means of Production: Women in Urban Canada, 1901
    (pp. 256-257)
  17. APPENDIX FOUR: Women and the Business of Philanthropy: The Case of Victoria
    (pp. 258-260)
  18. TABLES
    (pp. 261-306)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 307-344)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-368)
  21. Index
    (pp. 369-375)