Valuation, Resistance and Women's Work: A Review Essay [Cashing in on Pay Equity? Supermarket Restructuring and Gender Equity] [Community and Money: Men and Women Making Change] [Feminist Politics on the Farm: Rural Catholic Women in Southern Quebec and Southern France] [Obligation and Opportunity: Single Maritime Women in Boston, 1870-1930] [the Woman

Article excerpt

Cashing in on Pay Equity? Supermarket Restructuring and Gender Equality. Jan Kainer Toronto: Sumach Press, 2002.

Community and Money: Men and Women Making Change. Mary-Beth Raddon. Toronto: Black Rose Books, 2003.

Feminist Politics on the Farm: Rural Catholic Women in Southern Quebec and Southern France. Naomi Black and Gail Cuthbert Brandt. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.

Obligation and Opportunity: Single Maritime Women in Boston, 1870-1930. Betsy Beattie. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000.

The Woman Worker 1926-1929. Margaret Hobbs and Joan Sangster, eds. St. John's, Newfoundland: Canadian Committee on Labour History, 1999.

Recent Canadian publications on women and work span almost 150 years and a wide political landscape.' Their major themes centre on working conditions, the ways that women's work is valued and revalued, and resistance strategies in paid and unpaid work. To a significant extent, these texts examine work situations (as opposed to gendered work patterns) of working-class and rural women, including rural farmers, domestic workers, factory workers and workers doing unpaid work for their families.

With varying disciplinary lenses and informed by feminist analyses of gender, class and, to a much lesser extent, race stratification, these texts engage in a dialogue about the conditions and value of women's work. Beattie explores the lives of single Maritime women in the Boston area in the 30 years before and after the turn of the last century, uncovering and challenging the "dutiful daughter" ideal while at the same time drawing attention to the fluidity of the public/private divide in women's paid work. Hobbs and Sangster's edited text of the 1920s Communist Women's Labour Leagues' (WLLs) newsletter reflects critical debates about women's wages and working conditions while navigating the complexities of legal issues such as protective legislation for women. Black and Cuthbert Brandt set out t reframe rural francophone farm women as political actors by rethinking their work and professionalization. Kainer takes on the eperience of pay equity at three supermarkets in the 1980s and 1990s, concluding that the process of valuing women's work is fraught with bias and results in devaluation and increasing contingency for workers. Raddon's text about community currencies challenges the valuation structure of the formal money economy, exploring the ways in which alternative currencies promise to revalue "feminine" work. Taken together, these recent books paint a picture of hard work, poor conditions and the persistence of low wages for "feminized" work. They show difficulties in rememdying both low wages and undervalued work via social policy and in some cases trade unionism, and disucss the varied strategies employed by women to enact change.

Beattie's study of the out-migration in the period 1870-1930 of predominantly single girls from the Maritime provinces to Massachusetts is a layered exploration of gendered and uneven patterns of nation-building and industrialization in Canada and the United States. Beattie's methodology is rich: she uses letters censuses and interviews to uncover the pleasures and isolation faced by Maritim women in their work as domestic workers and, to a lesser extent, in factory anc non-domestic service work. She argues that much of the historical literature or Maritime out-migration offers a male-centred, skilled-labour-based explanation o the phenomenon. Until the 1890s, however, women emigrants to the Boston area outnumbered men. Beattie redresses this incomplete historical rendition by tackling the perplexing theoretical problem of accounting for young women's emigration patterns prior to the turn of the century. She does so by uncovering the "living and working conditions of Maritime women in Boston ... [and] ... their relationships to families in the Maritimes, their reasons for leaving home and how these reasons may have changed over the six decades of the greatest emigration from the region" (7). …


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