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Ontario GenWeb Project: How Gender Influences Work on Wolfe Island, Frontenac Co. Ontario
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How Gender Influences Work on Wolfe Island, Frontenac Co. Ontario
by Jennifer Hoeltzel
(c)1998, Jennifer Hoeltzel

Introduction

Wolfe Island, part of Frontenac Co., Ontario is the area studied to determine how gender affects work. This is not a hard concept to grasp; even today, gender affects what type of job a person has. It is not as bad as it was during the fifty-year period examined for Wolfe Island, 1851 to 1901, however it still exists. Varieties of jobs will be examined, the number of each gender listed with each occupation will be analyzed. From this information, women's roles in the community and the home will be visualized.

Methodology

Census records were examined over a fifty-year period (1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1901) for the community of Wolfe Island, Frontenac County, Ontario. From the censuses, information was gathered on women's jobs, in and outside of the home, and compared to men's jobs. When available from the census it was investigated how women were perceived as farm workers, if they were listed as his wife, housewife, wife, housekeeper, farmer, or as farming.

The samples used were good as a reasonable population was used, over 1000. However, bias was very evident among censuses and individual wards. Different enumerators were used each year, and for each ward. This caused some wards to have all married women listed as "his wife" etc under occupation, and some to have no women with the occupation of "his wife". Similarly, with the occupation of farmer there was some discrepancy. In the majority of cases a widowed women with a farm was listed as farming or farmer, however in some wards she was not listed as such, but her oldest son was. Another factor was that the 1851 census is incomplete, however I used the available information so a general idea of occupations and gender could be formed.

It is important to note that there is a high probability of some error in transcription, either by the person who transcribed the data from microfilm, or by me.

Analysis of Data

It was found that there were trends over time as to the number of people with occupations and the number involved. The type of occupation also varied over time.

There were two main occupations for both genders throughout the fifty-year period; these were farmer and servant.

The peak period for farming was 1871 . The census of this year recorded 437 male farmers and 17 female farmers. This year held the largest number for both sexes.

The peak period for those in the servant occupation was 1851, with 1871 being the lowest year . The number then increased sharply in 1881, only to then begin a decline over the next 3 decades . Male servants dominated until 1891.

Men had numerous varieties of jobs from Agent to Yoeman (as spelled in census), although main occupations were Blacksmith, Carpenter, Farmer, Laborer, Sailor, and Servant . Other occupations varied by need and decade. It is important to note that the Wolfe Island population began as a logging community, and only after the majority of the timber was cut, did it become a farming community (Horsey, E.E., March 1941).

Woman had less of a variety of occupations. "Among the working class as a whole, primarily widows, spinsters, and unmarried daughters worked." (Banner, Lois, 1974). The number of occupations did not increase over time . The number of women listed with occupations peaked in 1861, mainly because of the number of women listed as His Wife or Housewife. If these categories were dismissed the total women with employment for that year would be 60. This would then make 1881 as the peak period, followed by 1851. There is no general pattern to the number of women listed with occupations.

Some of the more common occupations for women were Dressmaker, Farmer, Servant, Teacher and Weaver.

Women were rarely listed as farmers by the enumerators. However their number grew until 1871 and then declined. An interesting note is that almost all of the women listed as farmers were widows. The few exceptions were unmarried. In addition, in 1871 and in 1901 some women were not listed as farmers, but as farming. This was reasonably a result of the tenuous position regarding land laws. "Until 1859, a married woman in Ontario could not hold property...only widows or unmarried women could own property." (Gillespie, Paul, 1996).

This could also be due to how the enumerators listed them, as many would list the widows' son as the farmer and give no occupation for her. However, Glazer notes women did work on the farm, by taking care of the gardening, dairy, hen house etc. (1965). She also notes that "women's labor is substituted for hired labor, both in working the land and in producing subsistence for the family" (1965).

Interestingly, women appear as having traditional "men's jobs" in a few cases. In 1861, five women are listed as laborers, in the same year, one was listed as a Yoeman. In 1861 and 1871 a woman was listed as a Grocer. In 1891, there was a female Clerk and in 1901, there were two. In addition, in 1901 a woman was listed as a Merchant. In 1881, there was a female Lighthouse Keeper.

Women in the home were first given occupations in 1861. However only two of the five wards did this consistently. In the other censuses there was only the occasional woman given an occupation of wife or housekeeper, etc. "Her time and energy, indeed her life, are treated as indefinitely exhaustible, in addition she must bear children because their labor is also essential." (Smith, Dorothy, 1963).

Conclusion

What is the difference between women's work and men's work? Need I even ask? Wolfe Island, part of Frontenac Co., Ontario is the area studied to determine how gender affects work. This is not a hard concept to grasp; even today, gender affects what type of job a person has. It is not as bad as it was during the fifty-year period examined for Wolfe Island, 1851 to 1901, however it still exists. Even today, few women are plumbers or electricians. Even fewer are in politics.

However this is changing, and the process continues to go slowly, as noticed on Wolfe Island. Few women were listed as having "male" occupations, such as farmers, merchants, laborers and yoemen. Many were in the traditional roles of Dressmaker, Seamstress, Servant, Tailoress, Teacher and Weaver. It is most interesting how some enumerators portrayed women's occupations in certain years. Listing "his wife" as an occupation clearly shows how woman is portrayed.

More research should be done to see if the growing number of female farmers was indicative of increase rights for women, such as the Married Women's Property Act of 1884. It would also be interesting to examine Oral histories and personal documents to see what life was like then, and how many women had occupations and were not listed in the census.

Bibliography
1.Banner, Lois W., Women in Modern America; a Brief History, Harbourt Brance Jovanovich Inc, New York, 1974.
2. Cott, Nancy F. The Bonds of Womanhood. Yale University Press, London, 1977.
3. Coughenour, Milton C. and Swanson, Louis. Work Statuses and Occupations of Men and Women in Farm Families and the Structure of Farms. Rural Sociology, V. 48(1) 1983
4. Gillespie, Paul, 1851 Personal and Agriculture Census: Canada West, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, June 1997.
5. Gillespie, Paul, 1861 Personal and Agricultural Census: Upper Canada, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, March 1997.
6. Gillespie, Paul, 1871 Census, Province of Ontario, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, November 1995.
7. Gillespie, Paul, 1881 Census, Province of Ontario, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, January, 1996
8. Gillespie, Paul, 1891 Census, Province of Ontario, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, September, 1995.
9. Gillespie, Paul, 1901 Census, Province of Ontario, Frontenac County, Township of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island Historical Press, June, 1995.
10. Glazer, Nona, Housework: A Review Essay. Sociology, Cornell University, 1965.
11. Horsey, E.E. Notes on Wolfe Island, March 1941.
12. Neth, Mary. Gender and the Family Labor System: Defining Work in the Rural Widwest. Journal of Social History. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Spring 1994.
13. Smith, Dorothy E., Some Implications of a Sociology for Women, University of California, 1963.

(c)1998, Jennifer Hoeltzel

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