Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Ideology Surrounding Women's Work in Canada, 1931-1956

Document type Thesis
Author Boutilier, Ann Marie
Degree M.A., Sociology
Publisher McMaster University; Hamilton, Ont.
Date 1977
Pages vi, 142 pages


Ideology determines how one experiences the world, shapes beliefs and expectations. Ideology is rooted in the structural dynamics of the social formation within which it exists. The articulation of the ideological with the economic structure can become problematic at certain points in time. This thesis uses a structural analysis to explore how changes in the economy have affected women in the Canadian labour force and how these changes related to the ideology surrounding women's work. Integral to this thesis is an analysis of how the State, through its labour policy, its government publications, and so on, does at times mediate between the economic situation and the dominant ideology as reflected in the popular media. This ideology is manifested through the institutional structure of the State as it influences both labour policy and the media.+ This thesis presents empirical data on the changes that took place in Canada between 1931 and 1956 in the ideology surrounding women's work. We take articles appearing in popular magazines and government publication of the era to be manifestations of the dominant ideology. We analyze materials in Maclean's, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, and the National Home Monthly. We analyzed government publications relating to labour policy; focussing on the Labour Gazette, and several reports and publications of government committees. The thesis begins with a theoretical outline. We discuss the concept of ideology and consider its role in the reproduction of class relations, the concept of a reserve army of labour, and finally, a brief summary of the concepts outlined above. We conclude the first chapter with a discussion of the methodologies used in our qualitative and quantitative analyses. The second, third and fourth chapters use qualitative analyses of periodicals to trace the articulation of the ideoloeical with the economic. Specific references are made to the media, to labour policy and to changes in the economy. These chapters deal with three distinct time periods -- with the Depression, with the World War Two years, and the period 1946 to 1956. In Chapter 5 we present a quantitative content analysis of selected magazines over the three periods. Our analyses of variations in the frequency of publications of articles relating to women's work and their activities both inside and outside the home confirm the shifts in emphasis over the period 1931 to 1956 that emerge from the earlier quantitative analyses. However, while the content and tone of articles does change with time, as is revealed in the qualitative analysis, the majority of articles have always related to traditionally domestic and feminine concerns. The data show an increasing professionalization of the housewife role. We conclude with a discussion of the importance of ideology in determining what is defined as women's work, and the importance of the control of women's labour market participation to the maintenance of the existing capitalist economic order.