Women's paid labour in St. John's between the two world wars

Forestell, Nancy M. (1987) Women's paid labour in St. John's between the two world wars. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (89MB)


Between the two world wars, women maintained a prominent position in the St. John's work force. Despite poor economic conditions, women's participation rate increased during the period. Job options for women were limited, however, because they were concentrated in a relatively small number of “female occupations.” Women were relegated primarily to positions as saleswomen, typists, garment workers, and domestic servants. This last occupation alone accounted for over a third of the female labour force. Domestic service attracted large numbers of outport women who arrived in St. John's annually seeking wage employment. The actual pattern of women’s paid work did not change substantially over these decades. The female labour force in St. John's was overwhelmingly young and single this entire time. Wage employment for women in this city, as for those elsewhere, bridged the gap between school and marriage. Class background was also a determining factor, along with age and marital status, in women's entry into the labour force. Working-class women were far more likely to work than middle-class women, primarily because of the necessity for them to contribute to the household economy. The much smaller number of married and widowed women who engaged in wage labour rarely did so full time. They often chose occupations which allowed them to carry out their paid labour as well as domestic duties. During the inter-war years, working women in St. John’s experienced two waves of union organization. At the end of the 1930's, a large number of female wage-earners sought to improve working conditions and to achieve higher wages through their involvement in unions. Despite formidable barriers, working women made a significant contribution to the city's labour movement.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5547
Item ID: 5547
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 187-200.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1987
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Women--Employment--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's--History

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics