Making Do: Women, Family, and Home in Montreal during the Great Depression

Making Do: Women, Family, and Home in Montreal during the Great Depression

Making Do: Women, Family, and Home in Montreal during the Great Depression

Making Do: Women, Family, and Home in Montreal during the Great Depression

Synopsis

Life in the Great Depression -- long lines of unemployed, soup kitchens, men riding the rails, public works projects -- these are the graphic images of the Great Depression of the 1930s, popularized by the press and seared into our memories. But outside of a few distinctive stories gathered from the oral and anecdotal writings on strategies used to survive, we know next to nothing about the daily life of the working class during those long and hungry years. How did the families survive when the principal breadwinner was unemployed? How did they feed, shelter and clothe themselves when relief payments covered barely half of their essential needs? To answer these questions Denyse Baillargeon looks at the contribution of the housewives. By interviewing Montreal francophone women who were already married at the beginning of the 1930s, and by examining their principal responsibilities, she uncovers the alternative strategies these housewives used to counter poverty. Their recollections made it possible to shed light not only on the impact of the economic crisis on their household duties during the Depression but also on their lives from childhood to World War 2, and on the living conditions of the working class from which most of them came.

Excerpt

It is during childhood and youth that we learn what we need to know, internalize behavioural norms, and adopt the role models and social values specific to our gender. For women born at the beginning of this century, this period of training and preparation for adult life was marked by the intensification of various winds of change that had been blowing through Quebec society for some decades. While imposing a new sexual division of labour based on the couple as provider/homemaker, the developing industrialization and urbanization that was becoming more pronounced during this period significantly modify traditional female life-courses and . . .

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