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Employment, Relief And The Breadwinner Ideal: A Historiography Of The Great Depression In Canada

1797 words - 7 pages

Hollingsworth and Tyyska discuss the employment of women in their article, both wage work and work performed outside of the “paid labour force.” (14). They also look at work discrimination of women based on gender and marital status. They argue that disapproval of married women working for wages during the Depression was expressed not only by those in position of power, such as politicians, but also by the general public and labour unions. They suggest that the number of women in the workforce increased as more young wives stayed working until the birth of their first child and older women entered the workforce in response to depression based deprivation. Hollingsworth and Tyyska also give examples of work that married women did that was an extension of their domestic duties such as babysitting for working mothers or taking in laundry. They also state that some women took in boarders, sold extra produce from gardens, or ran make-shift restaurant operations out of their homes.
Baillargeon also mentions the work that women did in order to earn money to help care for their families. The women she interviewed did many of the same things mentioned by Hollingsworth and Tyyska at home, only a few were employed outside the home. In several cases the husbands of the women did additional work on top of their regular jobs.
Srigley looks at women’s employment in terms of the effects of intersecting factors of race, ethnicity, marital status, gender and class. She argues that: “Anglo-Celtic dominance created both privileges and disadvantages for female workers who had differing access to employment.” Srigley states that: “Canadian feminist historians . . . have paid significantly less attention to race than to gender as an analytical tool, particularly with regards to whiteness.” She also states that in spite of gender restrictions and major economic stagnation, that the Toronto economy supported significant female employment. Strigley also explains that certain areas of employment such as domestic service and positions that required business school training, such as typing, remained female dominated, in spite the high rates of male unemployment.
Despite unemployment many people would not cross the boundary lines of gendered work or interfere with the breadwinner ideal of the times. Strikwerda discusses the breadwinner ideal in terms of how it affected employment. He argues that the onset of the depression challenged the male bread winner ideal, which became more difficult to sustain as increasing number of family men lost their jobs. Strikwerda also argues while the depression challenged this ideal it also reinforced it, as city relief officials focused most of their efforts on families. He states that like the debate over who had the right to work during the Depressions revealed the secondary status of women in the work place, that city policies regarding who could take relief employment revealed single men’s secondary status in the...

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