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The Famous Five: Heroes for Today
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Work Opportunities and Restrictions

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Reading: Letter to the Editor


Women working at Clark's factory

In the early 20th century, girls generally left home before reaching adulthood. Many women worked as live-in domestics to support their families or to save money; others migrated to the cities, where they could find employment in hotels, laundries or restaurants; and a few established their own businesses. Women who aspired and could afford to go to school trained to become teachers or nurses. They were then placed in schools or hospitals often far away from home.

These jobs fitted with what people considered women's "traditional" activities. Domestics were paid to do essentially the same household tasks as married women. Chambermaids, laundrywomen and cooks specialized in roles that took on responsibilities in the home  and teachers and nurses performed tasks that were seen as extensions of women's roles as mothers. 

Pauline Sylvia FairOther opportunities existed for single women, many of these positions opening out of necessity. Since few male physicians were willing to relocate to small prairie towns, a few savvy women who had earned their medical degrees were allowed to set up general practices in these communities. In cities, and early mining and logging towns where men far outnumbered women, prostitutes served as outlets for menís suppressed desires and sometimes their anger and frustrations. During the First World War, women were recruited to work in untraditional roles. Many women became labourers on farms and in factories, while others served in overseas nursing units.

While prostitution was demoralizing to women, their success in professions such as medicine and skilled trades demonstrated capabilities comparable to that of men. Displaying their leadership, women such as the Famous 5 began to call upon other women to become involved in the community.

Heritage Trail: Eating Out in Early Alberta, Part II
By the 1920s, cafes and restaurants were becoming the eating establishments of choice in Alberta. And as Don Wetherell writes in his book, Useful Pleasures: The Shaping of Leisure in Alberta, cafes were more informal and restaurants were usually attached to hotels.
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