A Woman's Place: Seventy Years in the Lives of Canadian Women


280 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
ISBN 1-55013-910-X
DDC 305.4'0971'0904





Edited by Sylvia Fraser
Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


Chatelaine, Canada’s oldest national women’s magazine, was launched
in 1928. This book, whose words and pictures were culled from the
magazine in celebration of its 70th anniversary, features 140
black-and-white images; three color sections; an introduction by the
current editor, Rona Maynard; and 85 articles by 77 writers, including
Nellie McClung, June Callwood, Michelle Landsberg, Barbara Frum, Robert
Fulford, Charlotte Gray, Barbara Amiel, and Marian Engel.

In the preface, editor Sylvia Fraser notes that the articles “were
selected more to reflect attitudes than to showcase literary talent.”
The collection, which Fraser likens to an “Everywoman’s diary,” is
divided into 10 chapters: “Woman’s Changing Image,”
“Partnerships,” “Her Home, Her Castle,” “Parenting,” “Food
and Entertaining,” “Mating Rituals,” “On the Job,”
“Citizenship,” “Gender Wars,” and “Role Models.”

As a historical record, the articles demonstrate that enthusiasm for
feminist goals did not evolve in a linear fashion. It was more a case of
two steps forward, one step back. In “Why I Had a Civil Marriage”
(1935), a newlywed asserts the right of married women to pursue a career
(“I believe that woman will never be free until she is economically
free”). Seventeen years later, Chatelaine published “The True Story
of One Woman’s Fight to Save Her Marriage,” wherein Celia comes to
realize that her husband’s adultery is a direct consequence of her
slovenly housekeeping and nagging ways (“I have not been the woman a
good man has a right to expect as his wife”). A truly chilling note is
struck in “Mail-Order Babies” (1932), which advocates sterilization
as a means of eliminating the propagation of “more little idiots” by
the “mentally defective.”

As social history, A Woman’s Place fascinates. Unfortunately, the
reading experience is marred by periodic outbreaks of typos.


“A Woman's Place: Seventy Years in the Lives of Canadian Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4607.