Katrina Srigley’s book “Breadwinning Daughters” is both a historical and interview-based account of the lives of women in Toronto during the Great Depression-era of the 1930s. Through various interviews, Srigley paints a picture of how these women lived, what they experienced during this particular time of hardship, what the significance of being a woman was at this particular period and what their impact was in Toronto during the Great Depression. Srigley paints a rather interesting picture of this period in that she points out that young women and not men were the central figures in the Toronto labor market and as a result developed a greater degree of power at home.
Interesting Aspects of “Breadwinning Daughters”
One of the more interesting aspects for discussion from the book is how Srigley portrays how factors related to class, marital status, and race affected the opportunities that certain types of women could avail of. What must be understood is that just as racism, elitism, and who a person marries affected people in the U.K. and the U.S. during the 1930s the same can be said for what occurred in Canada at the same time.
Before the 1930s women were often not treated as being on the same level as men and it was only when necessity resulted in their entry into the main workforce that women in Toronto actually rose in social standing yet despite this their rise in certain employment circles was still set along racial and ethnic lines which similarly affected men at the time. On the other hand, it must be questioned whether there are differences in the degree of discrimination between women and men when it comes to factors related to race, class, and ethnicity. Srigley’s account of the various instances of discrimination does shed some light on this particular topic and is a good way to examine how the discrimination affected the genders differently.
Another potential area of discussion is how in some cases women became the primary breadwinners of their families. This is a particularly interesting aspect to explore since it helps to capture how new economic realities helped to change gender roles within households resulting in women gaining more power and influence as compared to previous years. It can even be said that the Great Depression in Toronto was a good thing since it helped to set the impetus for subsequent changes in women’s rights and validating ideas related to gender equality and that women are not the “weaker sex” so to speak.
Overall, the book is a rather interesting piece of literature that helps to examine the various events that took place during the Great Depression in Toronto and how women both suffered and benefitted from its occurrence. I would have to say though that the various accounts are incredibly vivid, they at times create a mental image for me wherein I cannot help but imagine the various situations that women had to endure at the time, what changes they had to undergo and how the Great Depression impacted women in the long run in terms of gender distinction and greater power at home and in the local community.
Srigley, Katrina. Breadwinning Daughters: Young Working Women in a Depression-Era City. n.d.