Academic journal article Urban History Review

A Home Away from Home: Defining, Regulating, and Challenging Femininity at the Julia Drummond Residence in Montreal, 1920-1971

Academic journal article Urban History Review

A Home Away from Home: Defining, Regulating, and Challenging Femininity at the Julia Drummond Residence in Montreal, 1920-1971

Article excerpt

Abstract

As newcomers to Montreal, young single, working women were often subject to low salaries, poor housing options, and unknown dangers--both real and imagined--of a big city. This article considers the Julia Drummond Residence as a place of intersection for two groups of women: the middle-class volunteers who ran the residence and the young, single working women who lived there. While meeting a need in society by providing shelter and food for women earning small salaries, the women running the residence were just as concerned with shaping the femininity and moral fibre of the residents. The practices and ideology of these women, who used the language of reform and renewal, resembled closely those of social reformers of the previous generation, echoing judgment of femininity based on understandings of race, class, religion, and sexuality. This article explores what it was like to live at the residence, how some women found the residence a "home away from home" while others were less comfortable in the unfamiliar and seemingly cold middle-class institution. Positioning themselves as independent citizens of Montreal, at a time when affordable housing became increasingly available, many young, single women asserted their freedom and independence in the years following the Second World War by challenging the regulations imposed on them, and, in so doing, rejected the structured femininity offered to them by institutions such as the Julia Drummond Residence.

Resume

Les jeunes femmes celibataires, recemment arrivees a Montreal, etaient frequemment assujetties a de mauvais salaires, a des conditions de logement deplorables et a une foule de dangers inconnus, reels et imagine, de la grande ville. Cet article examine la residence Julia Drummond comme lieu d'echanges entre deux groupes de femmes--les benevoles de classe moyenne qui assurent le fonctionne-ment de la residence, et les jeunes femmes celibataires qui y vivent. Bien que repondant a un besoin societal en offrant logis et nourriture a des femmes gagnant de petits salaires, les gerantes de la residence s'interessent tout autant a faconner la feminite et la moralite des residentes. Ancres dans un langage de reforme et de renouveau, les pratiques et l'ideologie de ces femmes ressemblent de pres a celles des reformateurs sociaux de la generation anterieure, faisant appel a une comprehension de la feminite basee sur leur vision de la race, de la classe sociale, de la religion et de la sexualite. Cet article relate la vie a la residence et la facon dont certaines femmes y trouvent un second chez-soi, tandis que d'autres se sentent moins a l'aise a l'interieur des murs d'une institution inconnue et de classe moyenne. Se positionnant comme citoyennes independantes de Montreal, et grace a la disponibilite de logements aborda-bles, plusieurs jeunes femmes celibataires affirment leur liberte et leur independance durant les annees qui suivent la deuxieme guerre mondiale en defiant les regles qui leur sont imposees et, ce faisant, rejettent la feminite structuree qui leur est offerte par des institutions tels la residence Julia Drummond.

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  Before making out your application for residence in the Julia Drummond
  Residence we should like you to appreciate that this house came into
  being for the purpose of providing a home for girls coming to the city
  to work for the first time. (1)

In May 1971, after nearly fifty years of service, the Julia Drummond Residence in Montreal closed its doors. This is the story of the residence, from its origin as a vision of Anglican social reformers, through the middle years of its success, to the final years of its struggles and eventual closing. As newcomers to Montreal, young, single, working women were often subject to low salaries, poor housing options, and unknown dangers, both real and imagined, of a big city. This article considers the Julia Drummond Residence as a place of intersection for two groups of women--the middle-class volunteers who ran the residence and the young working women who lived there. …

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