As the twentieth century got under way in Canada, young women who entered the paid workforce became the focus of intense public debate. Young wage-earning women - "working girls" - embodied all that was unnerving and unnatural about modern times: the disintegration of the family, the independence of women, and the unwholesomeness of city life. These anxieties were amplified in the West. Long after eastern Canada was considered settled and urbanized, the West continued to be represented as a frontier where the idea of the region as a society in the making added resonance to the idea of the working girl as social pioneer.
Using an innovative interpretive approach that centres on literary representation, Lindsey McMaster takes a fresh look at the working heroine of western Canadian literature alongside social documents and newspaper accounts of her real-life counterparts. Working Girls in the West heightens our understanding of a figure that fired the imagination of writers and observers at the turn of the last century.
Lindsey McMaster teaches at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.
Acknowledgments Introduction 1 Working Women in the West at the Turn of the Century 2 The Urban Working Girl in Turn-of-the-Century Canadian Literature 3 White Slaves, Prostitutes, and Delinquents 4 Girls on Strike 5 White Working Girls and the Mixed-Race Workplace Conclusion: Just Girls Notes Bibliography Index