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Domestic Labour



One of the main attributes that supposedly characterized early Albertans was hard work.  For pioneers, work was supposed to be the only thing standing between them and their fortunes.  Numerous tasks were involved in breaking the land and developing a farm and home.  For the most part, these tasks were divided along gender lines just as they were in the “old countries.” Men’s primary work was outside the home – performing the fieldwork, caring for the larger animals and taking care of all business matters. 

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Heritage Trails #45 - House Design: Kitchens Pre 1930

At the turn of the 20th century, the kitchen was viewed as the hub of the home. However, there were many changes in kitchen design before 1930. However, despite all of the changes that took place, one theme ran throughout them all: that the woman's place was in the kitchen.

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Women’s work was primarily in the home and its immediate surroundings – taking care of the children, performing all the household chores and tending to the garden and smaller animals. However, work in Alberta did not always follow such a neat division. The demands of pioneer life meant that many women were expected to be a “Jill of all trades,” performing tasks in and out of the home that contributed directly to the family’s survival. As we have seen in the Social Activism section, the nature of women’s work in Alberta led many to call for greater rights and participation in the political sphere.


  • Dodd, Dianne.  "Women and Domestic Technology: Household Drudgery, 'Democratized Consumption,' and Patriarchy."  Framing Our Past.  Eds. Sharon Cook, et al.  Montreal: McGill University Press, 2001.

  • Gagnon, Anne.  " 'Our Parents did not raise us to be independent:' The Work and Schooling of Young Franco-Albertan Women, 1890-1940." Prairie Forum 1994 19(2): 169-185.

  • McManus, Sheila.  "Gender(ed) Tensions in the Work and Politics of Alberta Farm Women, 1905-29."  Telling Tales.  Eds. Randi Warne and Catherine Cavanaugh.  Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2000.

  • Millar, Nancy.  Once Upon a Wedding.  Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 2000.

  • Wetherell, Donald and Irene Kmet.  Homes in Alberta: Building, Trends, and Design 1870-1967.  Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1991.




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