Respectable Citizens: Gender, Family and Unemployment in Ontario’s Great Depression by Lara Campbell – a Review

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Respectable Citizens: Gender, Family and Unemployment in Ontario’s Great Depression By Lara Campbell – A Review

Lara Campbell’s, professor of history at Simon Frasier University, book Respectable Citizens: Gender, Family and Unemployment in Ontario’s Great Depression (published in 2009) provides a thoroughly researched look at an often looked over topic in regards to the Great Depression; gender. Her beginning introductory chapter sets the focus of this book and she takes time to consider the strengths and weaknesses of her thoroughly used sources. This overview of the book provides the reader with a well formatted look into her topics of discussion; namely the aspects of the welfare state, labour, and gender identity and understanding.

Campbell divides her book into five primary chapters; each of which discuss a variety of issues and themes supplemented thoroughly with examples of accounts. Chapter one demonstrates the vital role which women, particularly as mothers, played within the home in order to ensure economic survival. Additionally, this chapter discusses the influence and importance of society’s view of just what a “good wife/mother” was including class differences. Survival through domestic work (e.g. nutrition, clothing, keeping house, budgeting) and informal labour (e.g. taking in laundry, sewing, prostitution, taking boarders) served as staples for women and mothers alike during this era. Campbell also discusses and provides insights on the matters of single motherhood, employed married women – who were largely subject to public ire for taking the jobs of men especially if their husband also had a job-- and women deserting their families. This chapter, much like the second focuses on the roles, duties and expectations placed upon women and men in regards to their families. Chapter two continues on such topic with its focus being on men. This particular chapter demonstrates the stresses placed upon the family as men -- the quinticental...
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