Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Masculinity, Medicine and Mechanization. The Construction of Occupational Health in Northern Ontario

Document type Thesis
Author Wilde, Terence Peter
Degree Ph.D., History
Publisher York University; Toronto
Date 2014
Pages 228 pages


This dissertation examines workplace issues and events that shaped men’s health, and the healthcare services in support of them, in northern Ontario’s resource extraction industries. Between 1890 and 1925 there were important transformations in the hardrock mining sector including: technological innovations and refinements of the materials and devices used to extract ores; the healthcare mandated and legislatively prescribed but challenging to deliver to frontier workspaces; and how the complex interactions of the men, their work, their communities, wartime demands and collective bargaining combined to construct new definitions of masculinity. Using quantitative data from the Ontario Bureau of Mines on the numbers of annual accidents and fatalities, a clearer understanding emerges that reveals how workingmen’s bodies were understood over time. Together with newspaper accounts, the reports of coroners’ juries, personal papers, doctors’ memoirs and popular histories, the role of work and workplace conditions clarifies how health was managed or how it suffered as the exploitation of the provinces natural resources began in earnest. The impact of World War One caused a wholesale change in the scale and importance of the mines and the men that worked them. This was seen in their solidarity, strength and successful strike immediately after the war and in fewer accidents and fatalities. The pace of change however faded in the post-war era. The gains that were made were kept and men’s health and safety never again saw the alarming losses as those enumerated here.