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Media History in Canada Database

Author: Brush, Philippa Mary
Title: "This feminine invasion": Women and the workplace in Canadian magazines, 1900-1930
Year: 1999
Place: Edmonton
Publisher: PhD Diss., University of Alberta
Abstract: In the years between 1900 and 1930, increasing numbers of women in the professions and in new clerical occupations meant that the question of women in the public workplace became a topic for debate and, for some, a source of concern. In the Canadian magazines Maclean's and Saturday Night , and later Chatelaine and The Business Woman , debates around women in the workplace focused almost exclusively on women in the professions and in business and ignored women in other occupational categories and classes. The perception that women were invading what had been an almost exclusively male white-collar workplace in rapidly increasing numbers meant that the debates around women's paid employment tended to focus either on the assertion of women's "natural" and traditional role in the domestic sphere or on the justification of women's presence in the paid labour force.

In this dissertation, I trace some of these early twentieth-century debates about working women as they appeared in Canadian magazines. Using a feminist materialist strategy of explanatory critique, I explore the representations of women's experiences in the public workplace and discuss the ideological assumptions about gendered behaviours, responsibilities, and roles that informed them. I begin by outlining, through an article reprinted in both Maclean's and Saturday Night , the central assumptions that dominated the debates throughout this period. I go on to examine those assumptions in a series of chronologically-ordered chapters, each dealing with a particular aspect of the debates and reflecting the shifts in perspective that took place during the First World War and in the period of "reconstruction" that followed. I end by considering the ways in which the rhetoric used to discuss women's work outside the home remains very similar today despite dramatic changes in the lived experiences of women in the paid labour force. from Proquest Dissertations