Change and continuity in women’s experiences of work
Women on farms
*Throughout history, farm wives have often enjoyed a relatively equal marriage, where
their labour and cash contributions were essential and valuable
*the life of the farm wife was one of repetition, drudgery and isolation. Wives worked to
maintain the house, farm and family, and also to earn cash for the farm. Women
ran mini businesses, selling everything from surplus eggs, butter, cheese, and
preserves, to manufacturing soap, wool, and bread. Women also worked as field
*however, any profit she made was sunk into the farm, not back into her own business,
no matter how profitable it may have been.
*Industrialization usually caused great upheaval in historical patterns of work and
organizing families, society and gender roles.
*With industrialization small farm renters were removed from their land, and families
moved into paid labour on large farms and in city factories.
*Women now tended to stay in the home, managing the family’s meagre income.
Working Families in Industrialized Canada
*During industrialization, wages were not sufficient to buy food, shelter and fuel for a
small family of 4-5 people . Diets were limited, and often insufficient, especially for
pregnant women and working men. Many necessities like produce, stoves,
utensils, furniture, transit, clothing, alcohol, taxes, etc were not included in the
average weekly budget.
*housework (laundry, food prep, cleaning, etc) was labour intensive. Food was often
full of impurities. Raising a pig or a few chickens or vegetables either stretched the
family food budget or raised some much needed cash. Many women did
“piecework”, took in boarders, and some did child care and domestic work for
wages for neighbours.
*most women did not work after giving birth. Children’s wages were important to family
survival, so they worked as soon as they were able until they married. Girls did
much domestic work and childcare. Their factory wages were less than half of
males, but were still essential to family survival.
Women and work in the depression *the Depression caused widespread male unemployment. Women’s jobs were not
significant enough for men to take them . The Depression caused a crisis for
*Social aid payments were only given to men, but women were held legally responsible
for using the payments properly. Women were monitored by social services , and
welfare could be taken away if women were not using them properly.
*Social aid payments usually covered only about 65% of a family’s needs.
*so how did they survive?...as during the Industrial revolution.
*WWII changed women’s experiences of work. Prior to the war, women workers were
largely single who worked before marriage. During the war, even young mothers
were called into the paid workforce. There were unprecedented changes such as
women in conventionally male jobs, govt daycare, income tax breaks for working
wives, and part time work.
*Yes, most women did leave the workforce at the end of the war, but it had become
increasingly acceptable for all women to work.
1970s: the RCSW and changes in women’s work in Canada
*in the late 1960s, the government founded the Royal Commission on the Status of
Women in Canada.
*the RCSW quickly filed 167 specific recommendations of how to improve the lives of
*the majority of the report was focussed on women’s experiences of work. Specifically,
they were concerned with equal pay, the double day, maternity leave, glass
ceilings, women’s overrepresentation as part time workers, equal pensions, and
equal opportunities in many specific jobs
*the government took serious action on many of the recommendations
*Many social assumptions about the meaning of “work “ do not match the realities of
what women do. Much of women's work happens inside the home and is unpaid.
*Unpaid work is one of the biggest contributions women make to the economy. (approx
40% of the GDP)
*Today, women work for wages and do the bulk of the domestic work. This double day
tends to be scattered throughout women’s daily home and work lives. Thus
women are 70% of the part-time workforce , are far more likely to lose their jobs due to family responsibilities
*In Canada, the 1996 Census was the first to collect data on unpaid work. We now
know that women and men in Canada have similar total workloads but men spend
more of their time in paid work , and women spend more of their time in unpaid
*Globally, women produce 60% of the world’s food and do 2x the unpaid labour of men.
*Women work for wages and do the bulk of the domestic work. Thus women are 70%
of the part-time workforce, and are far more likely to lose their jobs due to family
*Some change in recent years as university e