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Module 16

Industrialization and Women’s Work, 1870s to 1920s

Lynne Marks

This module demonstrates the impact that industrialization had on working-class women, both inside and outside the home. Documents and articles reveal the difficult working conditions and long hours endured by women and girls in early factories and addresses the question of child labour. The module also explores the limited alternative options available to women in the paid workforce and looks closely at the backbreaking and crucial labour of women in the home, labour which made the difference between survival and destitution for so many working-class families of the industrial era.

Primary sources:

  1. Text: Videre. ‘A Little Independence: Factory Girls’ Toronto Star (1912)
  2. Text: ‘The Sweating System in Canada,’ Mackenzie King, Globe (1898)
  3. Text: ‘Letter from a servant to the Globe’ (1886)
  4. Photograph: Domestic servants (early 20th century)
  5. Text: ‘Laundry.’ Oral history excerpt from Meg Luxton, More than a Labour of Love: Three Generations of Women’s Work in the Home (1978)
  6. Text: The Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital, 1889.
  7. Photograph: Toronto Textile Factory (1908)
  8. Photograph: Mothers and Children at Home, Toronto (1913)
  9. Photograph: Children gathering Coal cinders from a Toronto Rail Yard Public (no date)

Secondary sources:

  1. Ruth Frager and Carmela Patrias. Discounted Labour: Women Workers in Canada, 1870-1939 (2005)
  2. Bettina Bradbury. ‘The Home as Workplace’ in Paul Craven (ed.) Labouring Lives: Work and Workers in Nineteenth-Century Ontario (1995)

Introduction

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