Household Politics: Montreal Families and Postwar Reconstruction


281 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4888-9
DDC 306.85'09714'2809044




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality, Canadian History to
1967, and Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Osc


Consider this snapshot from the past: a mass Roman Catholic marriage
ceremony for 105 couples in a baseball stadium in Montreal in 1939.
Today such religious showmanship is associated with sects such as the
Moonies, but these marriages were of French Canadians whose hopes and
anxieties, travails and triumphs, were then tracked for decades in order
to draw public attention to the importance of marital unions and

Such peculiar events serve as the backdrop for Magda Fahrni, a history
professor at the Université du Québec а Montréal, to elucidate the
dynamics of postwar reconstruction in Canada in the years following
1945. Readers should not be deterred by either the title of the volume
or the all-too-familiar formulaic introduction that establishes the
author’s turf and identifies the book’s earlier incarnation as a
doctoral dissertation. Household Politics expands historical knowledge
by making important contributions to our understanding of the local
dynamics involved in postwar adjustment, especially as they applied to
urban families in Quebec. Earlier studies have examined federal and
provincial public policy that fostered a new era in Canadian life, but
Fahrni’s work shows us the impact on local ground in Montreal. The
author discusses the social economy of postwar Montreal and the welfare
agencies that underpinned it, veterans returning and their families, the
expansion of a family movement symbolized by the mass marriage ceremony,
the contrast presented by public protests as evinced in the fathers’
squatters movement of 1946–47 and teachers’ strike of 1949, and
women organizing in consumer organizers to influence prices and
regulation in regard to commodities that families needed to buy at a
time when groceries consumed a quarter of the average family’s income.

Fahrni’s study does not manage to capture all of Montreal’s postwar
families, since the focus is on francophones (other ethnic groups are
largely excluded), but this volume magnifies our understanding of a
significant transition period in Canada’s 20th-century history.


Fahrni, Magda., “Household Politics: Montreal Families and Postwar Reconstruction,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,