Gender at Work at Home: Family Decisions, the Labour Market, and Girls’ Contributions
to the Family Economy
Labour Studies 1AO3E
Feb 5 , 2013 This article studied the economy of Canada’s primary and largest industrial hub with a
variety of complex industries providing maximum working opportunities (Bradbury, 2000, p.216).
Two areas of Montreal were used as the focus wards through out the entire article, they were
Ste. Anne and St. Jacques. The author, Bettina Bradbury, studied the working class Montreal
families within the time spend of three decades, from 1860 to 1890. Through out the thirty years,
the society lived under the ideologies of patriarchy and capitalism (Bradbury, 2000, p.215).
Patriarchy is a form of social organization where the male is the authority figure and capitalism
is an economic and political system where private businesses are encouraged to maximize their
profits. In essence, the French societies in the 1860s were male dominant and sparked the
beginning of the growing industries threw new factories and different business sectors.
The working class families often struggled to provide for every family member. Each
family went through a similar ‘lifecycle’ when it came to generating income. The first stage was
when a young couple formed a family with a newborn; usually families like this had one person
working (Bradbury, 2000, p.218). The next stage was when the kids reached around the age of
eleven or twelve. The children would start looking for jobs that required minimum skills. Both
girls and boys earned around the same wage until they turned fifteen or sixteen years old
(Bradbury, 2000, p.227). Stage three would occur when the sons and daughters formed their
own families and the cycle would go back to stage one (Bradbury, 2000, p. 227).
As mentioned above, the first and most obvious difference between boys and girls in the
job market was that girls were paid significantly less than the boys. Girls usually earned less
than 50% of what the boys earned (Bradbury, 2000, p.226). Once the boys reached the certain
age, they could find jobs in a variety of fields, whether it was in factories or different workplaces
(Bradbury, 2000, p.221). However, girls were limited to several jobs. Also, despite the fact that
girls had a hard time finding work, only single women were desired. In the working world, there
seemed to be an invisible line between jobs for men and jobs for women.
2 It was a norm for families to push their children to find jobs once they reached the age of
elven or twelve (Bradbury, 2000, p.227). Traditionally, the oldest sons would become the
secondary earners (Bradbury, 2000, p.220). The 1860s to 1890s were prosperous times for the
factories and businesses. The boys had no trouble looking for employment. If they worked at
shoe manufacturers, they would be paid around $7.00 to $8.00 per week and if they were
journeymen they would be paid at an average of $11.00 a week (Bradbury, 2000, p.226). The
income that the boys brought into their families plus what the father earned would usually kept
the family running.
On the other hand, girls were not as lucky as the boys. They were paid drastically lower
than the boys not because they were incompetent, but because of what the society believed in.
Religious leaders were explicit that the mothers would educate their daughters and prepare
them for their future roles (Bradbury, 2000, p.222). However, girls did work under some
circumstances. If the family did not have a son or if he was too young to work, the oldest
daughter would have to take on the responsibility (Bradbury, 2000, p.223). For girls who
worked at shoe manufactories, they would earn around $3.00 to $4.00 a week and if they were
a bookbinder, they would have made $1.50 to $6.00 a week (Bradbury, 2000, p.226). Clearly,
the girls were not paid fairly and that was why fewer girls participated in the labour market.
The differences between the genders in terms of their participation in the market were
not just based on the society’s ideologies. Instead, the ‘stereotypes’ were created due to the
family and societal needs. The difference began when the children were placed in school. Boys
and girls were placed into different schools with different curriculums to prepare them for the
roles the society had shaped (Bradbury, 2000, p.222). Boys learned about bookkeeping,
geography, and other classes that would prepare them for the working world (Bradbury, 2000,
p.222). On the other hand, girls would learn about babysitting, cleaning, mending, sewing,
cooking, shopping, nursing, hygi