Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

History General

The Gender of Breadwinners

Women, Men and Change in Two Industrial Towns, 1880-1950

by (author) Joy Parr

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1998
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 1998
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2004
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


This is a story of two Ontario towns, Hanover and Paris, that grew in many parallel ways. They were about the same size, and both were primarily one-industry towns. But Hanover was a furniture-manufacturing centre; most of its workers were men, drawn from a community of ethnic German artisans and agriculturalists. In Paris the biggest employer was the textile industry; most of its wage earners were women, assisted in emigration from England by their Canadian employer.

Joy Parr considers the impacy of these fundamental differences from a feminist perspective in her study of the towns' industrial, domestic, and community life. She combines interviews of women and men of the towns with analyses of a wide range of documents: records of the firms from which their families worked, newspapers, tax records, paintings, photographs, and government documents.

Two surprising and contrasting narratives emerge. The effects of gender identities upon both women's and men's workplace experience and of economic roles upon familial relationships are starkly apparent.

Extending through seventy crucial years, these closely textured case studies challenge conventional views about the distinctiveness of gender and class roles. They reconfigure the social and economic change accompanying the rise of industry. They insistently transcend the reflexive dichtomies drawn between womena dn men, public and privae, wage and non-wage work. They investigate industrial structure, technological change, domesticity, militance, and perceptions of personal power and worth, simultaneously as products of gender and class identities, recast through community sensibilities.

About the author

Joy Parr is a Farley Endowed Professor of History at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of The Gender of Breadwinners, winner of the 1990 Macdonald Prize for the best work in Canadian history.

Joy Parr's profile page


  • Winner, John A. Macdonald Prize
  • Winner, François-Xavier Garneau Medal
  • Winner, The Harold Adam Innis Prize award by the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada

Editorial Reviews

'Clearly a benchmark in Canadian historical scholarship.'

American Review of Canadian Studies

'Well worth a careful reading for anyone interested in gender and work issues.'

Journal of Economic History

'A work of truly remarkable sensitivity, depth and complexity.'

Canadian Forum

'The most exhilarating, challenging book to appear in modern Canadian social history in many years. Part women's history, part labour history, part technological history, part economic history, it integrates and surpasses these discrete subfields. Its theoretical underpinnings are particularly innovative.'

Craig Heron, Canadian Historical Review

Other titles by Joy Parr