The Woman Worker, 1926-1929

Description

284 pages
Contains Bibliography
$24.95
ISBN 1-894000-01-3
DDC 331.4'0971'09042

Year

1999

Contributor

Edited by Margaret Hobbs and Joan Sangster
Reviewed by Margaret Conrad

Margaret Conrad is a professor of history at Acadia University. She is
the author of Intimate Relations: Family and Community in Planter Nova
Scotia, 1759–1800, and Making Adjustments: Change and Continuity in
Planter Nova Scotia, 1759–1800 and the co

Review

Until recently it was assumed that the two decades following the
achievement of female suffrage at the federal level in 1918 were a quiet
time for the women’s movement in Canada. This volume provides
documentary evidence to the contrary. At least for women on the left of
the political spectrum, the struggle for women’s rights and political
agency had only just begun.

Between 1926 and 1929, Florence Custance edited The Woman Worker, the
official newspaper of the Communist-inspired Women’s Labour Leagues.
Determined to avoid recipes, fashions, and “sickly love stories,”
Custance kept political issues at the forefront of her publishing
venture. The editors of this book have reproduced the inaugural issue of
The Woman Worker in its entirety and then grouped articles topically,
focusing on women in the labour movement, protective legislation,
feminism and social reform, war and peace, the sex trade, family life,
birth control and abortion, solidarity nationally and internationally,
and the work of WLL locals. Each chapter includes a helpful introduction
and bibliography.

The newspaper makes fascinating reading today, not only because
controversies over such matters as workplace exploitation, pay equity,
world peace, and even beauty contests are still with us, but also
because many of the arguments based on class and gender perspectives
have not changed much over 70 years. Despite the relevance of its
subject matter, The Woman Worker had a short life. In 1928, Soviet
leaders instructed their Communist allies to abandon the common-front
approach that The Woman Worker represented (women such as Canada’s
first female MP Agnes Macphail, who was certainly no Communist,
published in its pages), and the following year Custance died. As the
editors point out, the newspaper “had been her creation and died with
her.”

It is useful to have this historical resource more readily accessible
to students and researchers. Although the editors do not make this
point, The Woman Worker stands in fascinating contrast to Chatelaine,
another Canadian publication targeting women that was founded in the
1920s and that only began tackling some of the issues raised by its
pioneering competitor in the late 1950s.

Citation

“The Woman Worker, 1926-1929,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/2276.