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History General

Just the Usual Work

The Social Worlds of Ida Martin, Working-Class Diarist

by (author) Michael Boudreau & Bonnie Huskins

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2021
General, Gender Studies
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price

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Born in 1907, Ida Martin spent most of her life in Saint John, New Brunswick. She married a longshoreman named Allan Robert Martin in 1932 and they had one daughter. In the years that followed, Ida had a busy and varied life, full of work, caring for her family, and living her faith. Through it all, Ida found time to keep a daily diary from 1945 to 1992.

Bonnie Huskins is Ida Martin's granddaughter. In Just the Usual Work, she and Michael Boudreau draw on Ida's diaries, family memories, and the history of Atlantic Canada to shed light on the everyday life of a working-class housewife during a period of significant social and political change. They examine Ida's observations about the struggles of making ends meet on a longshoreman's salary, the labour confrontations at the Port of Saint John, the role of automobiles in the family economy, the importance of family, faith, and political engagement, and her experience of widowhood and growing old.

Ida Martin's diaries were often read by members of her family to reconstruct and relive their shared histories. By sharing the pages of her diaries with a wider audience, Just the Usual Work keeps Ida's memory alive while continuing her abiding commitment to documenting the past and finding meaning in the rhythms of everyday life.

About the authors

Michael Boudreau is professor of criminology and criminal justice, St. Thomas University.

Michael Boudreau's profile page

BONNIE HUSKINS grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, where history is literally embedded in the landscape. Huskins obtained a PhD from Dalhousie University in 1992. She taught Canadian history for 12 years at the University College of the Fraser Valley (now the University of the Fraser Valley) in British Columbia, and in 2004 relocated back to the Maritimes. Since then she has been an Honorary Research Associate at the University of New Brunswick. She teaches courses on Atlantic Canadian history at the Fredericton and Saint John campuses as well as at Saint Thomas University.

Bonnie Huskins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Just the Usual Work is a wonderful addition to histories of the Maritime region and a loving homage to a woman whose diary practice spanned almost an entire lifetime. As Huskins and Boudreau navigate the accounts of Ida’s life, their analysis offers readers an overview of a community governed by patterns of seasonal labour, the need for frugal spending, and a complicated sense of contentment alongside a desire for stability. Without flourish or the time for embellishment, the ebb and flow of Ida’s narrative are enlightening and unique, so too are the insights Huskins and Boudreau garner from her words and experiences.” The Miramichi Review

“The authors have worked hard to historicize, contextualize, and bring to life Ida Martin, at once representative of her gender, class, race, region, and time, yet unique – which is exactly what makes her story so worth telling. Most important of all, they have succeeded in making Ida Martin the hero of her own life.” Cynthia Comacchio, Wilfrid Laurier University

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