Monday, December 7, 2009

The Canadian Housewife -An Affectionate History

I just finished reading this. Its an historical account of housewives in Canada since the 1600's to the 1950's. After that we all know that women started to go to work in droves so I guess that's why it ends there except for me still plodding away in suburbia. They even mention housewives in suburbia too as it was the 1950's when suburbs were first created apparently thanks to the motorcar. This book is quite fascinating and although we know so much of this from our history class and from oral reports from our mothers and grandmothers there are still so many tidbits we never heard tell of. For example did you know that the first woman amongst the filles de roi to get married was a moor? Or did you know that divorce used to be illegal in Canada? If the guy was a jerk you were stuck with him for life! One can only be amazed by the fortitude of these women and what they went through. For most of the women their lives back in Europe were a lot better in every way so it was a great sacrifice for them to come here. But what begs to be asked is what about the lives of the native women? Were they not housewives as well during this time? Not according to Edna Jacques in "Housewives of Yellowknife" p81 which is quoted on page 197 of this book. "To be honest about it, there are no original housewives in this far land, unless you would like to call a native Indian woman at the door of her shack, a housewife." As a woman with native heritage (I'm ojibway) I'm appalled and insulted by this remark as well as the fact that native housewives aside from this quote are never mentioned in this book aside from an Inuit woman being told to give her baby formula. Perhaps there was no written work left behind like the european women had but wasn't there any observations made by europeans either in this regard except negative ones? I'd love to know for example how the Hurons kept their longhouses. Another shocking thing is the way women and children are portrayed in advertising and newspaper columns. On page 207 its says "Most husbands, nowadays, have stopped beating their wives, but what can be more agonizing to a sensitive soul than a man's boredom at meals?" This was in an ad for Heinz Soup! On page 211 Margaret Munnoch in the Toronto Globe and Mail complains about accent pillows for decorating and says " It is too small to fit behind your back, too large to stop the mouths of howling children, too hard to rest on and too bizarre to ignore." Its 2009 and I'd like to say "you've come a long way baby!" but I wonder if that's true? After reading this book though you'll never be able to complain about housekeeping again; we have it so much easier than they did. When was the last time you had to make your own bread, butter and clothing?

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