This thesis focuses on the representation of working women in popular English-Canadian novels from the 1890s to the 1920s. Drawing upon sociohistorical contexts, this study examines the oft-neglected theme of women’s work in Canadian literature. Through sustained, comparative analysis of a sample of popular fiction from this era, I explore the way these novels worked to intervene in, and partially construct, readers’ understanding of gender economies surrounding female labour. I also interrogate how far popular literature of the period explored and represented these new opportunities, and to what extent novelists retained a traditional emphasis on the primary role of women as wives and mothers. More canonical authors such as Nellie McClung, L. M. Montgomery and Grant Allen are considered alongside neglected or obscure authors such as J. G. Sime, Agnes Maule Machar, and Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve to help build a reasonably comprehensive picture of the fictional working woman in this era and her differing cultural and symbolic representations. These texts explore a variety of different forms of female employment ranging from farming and factory work to nursing and typewriting, always considering the representation of women’s domestic, unpaid duties alongside their newly acquired economic and cultural roles as working women. By focusing on the representation of less critically-explored forms of female labour, this study offers new insights on the representation of women’s work in early Canadian fiction.
|Date of Award||4 Apr 2013|
- University Of Strathclyde