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Discounted Labour

Discounted Labour: Women Workers in Canada, 1870-1939

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Discounted Labour
    Book Description:

    Discounted Labouris an essential new work for anyone interested in the historical struggle for gender equality in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2749-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    ‘When ... for the same labour, females receive less pay, though that labour may be as well, if not better, performed, we are compelled to feel that an aspersion is cast upon our sex,’ wrote an anonymous teacher in 1871. Over 130 years later, advocates of pay equity for women are still wrestling with similar issues. Differential earnings of men and women are widely recognized as a problem in Canada today, and hence are carefully tracked. According to Statistics Canada, in 2002, the earnings of women employed full time, year round, were just 71 per cent of those of their...

  5. Part I: Image versus Reality

    • 1 Industrial Capitalism and Women’s Work
      (pp. 17-53)

      ‘Z’ left school at the age of fourteen to help her family. Her father made a living hauling goods, and her mother supplemented the family’s income by taking in boarders. For the first few months after leaving school, Z helped her mother with domestic chores. But although she needed the help, the mother wanted Z to find a better way to earn a living than ‘slaveying’ for boarders. Z found a job in a candy factory, wrapping chocolate bars, but left after several months because of poor health.

      After a short rest, Z found a job in a millinery factory,...

    • 2 White Collars
      (pp. 54-74)

      In 1919, Ellen M. Knox, principal of Havergal College (an exclusive private school for girls in Toronto), publishedThe Girl of the New Day, a career advice book aimed at middleclass girls. Although she did not specify the social class of her intended audience, her references to them as cultured and educated make clear that she had in mind privileged young women. These girls, she claimed, were very fortunate because of the many honourable ‘professions’ open to them: teaching, nursing, social service, librarianship, office work, and ‘salesmanship.’ For her, these occupations were professions requiring education and training, and providing their...

    • 3 In Times of Crisis
      (pp. 75-88)

      The fate of employed women during the First World War (1914–18) and the Great Depression (1929–39), two crises that shook Canadian society in rapid succession, demonstrates the resilience of the gendered structure of the paid workforce. These crises exerted seemingly contradictory pressures on women workers but ultimately did not greatly alter their situation. During the war, the expansion of production, war casualties, and the enlistment of many men in the armed forces combined to create labour shortages that led to an increased demand for women workers. Although some women were recruited into jobs that had formerly been closed...

  6. Part II: Confronting the Disjuncture

    • 4 Social Reform and Regulation
      (pp. 91-113)

      The massive social problems that accompanied rapid industrialization and urbanization in Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries aroused the consciences of many middle-class Canadians. Social reformers were often especially concerned about the plight of women and children in the paid workforce. Their concerns were paternalistic – they supposed women to be nearly as helpless as children and therefore in need of male protection. In part, it was the disjuncture between notions of proper womanhood and the actual treatment of women workers that aroused their concern and spurred them to press for protective measures. The reformers used maternalist discourse...

    • 5 Resistance and Its Limits
      (pp. 114-146)

      ‘With a union when we return to work [after winning this strike,] there will be no need to bring kegs of wine, cakes and chicken for the bosses. You won’t have to be good looking to get a break,’ declared Mary Jary. ‘You won’t have to listen to some of that awful language we hear in the mill. The union would give everyone a fair chance and they would receive treatment like humans, not like cattle.’

      It was December 1936, and over eight hundred employees of the Empire Cotton Mills in Welland, Ontario, had walked off the job. More than...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 147-158)

    The story of Canada’s women workers in the years from 1870 to 1939 is, in many ways, a grim tale. No doubt focusing on the defiant voices and the specific triumphs of employed women and their advocates would make for more inspiring reading. But such a focus would be misleading, for although women workers made some gains during this period, inequality remained deeply entrenched.

    Individual women manoeuvred within serious constraints to improve their situations as much as possible. Changes that may seem small to the historian were sometimes quite important to particular individuals. A new job may have made a...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-176)
  9. Index
    (pp. 177-190)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-191)