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Wives and Mothers, School Mistresses and Scullery Maids: Working Women in Upper Canada 1790-1840

Arguing that the role of Upper Canadian women in the overall economy of the early colonial period has been greatly undervalued by contemporary historians. Jane Errington illustrates how the work they did, particularly as wives and mothers, played a significant role in the development of the colony.

Errington explores evidence of a distinctive women's culture and shows that the work women did constituted a common experience shared by Upper Canadian women. Most of them not only experienced the uncertainties of marriage and the potential dangers of childbirth but also took part in making sure that the needs of their families were met. How women actually fulfilled their numerous responsibilities differed, however. Age, location, marital status, class, and society's changing expectations of women all had a direct impact on what was expected of them, what they did, and how they did it.

Considering “women's work” within the social and historical context, Errington shows that the complexity of colonial society cannot be understood unless the roles and work of women in Upper Canada are taken into account.

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.