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Everyday Athenas : strategies of survival and identity for ever-single women in British Columbia, 1880-1930 Tallentire, Jenéa 2006

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EVERYDAY ATHENAS: STRATEGIES OF SURVIVAL AND IDENTITY FOR EVER-SINGLE WOMEN IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1880-1930  BY  Jenéa Tallentire A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (History)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August 2006 © Jenéa Tallentire, 2006  Abstract This study of single women in the British Columbia context reveals the importance of marital status as a distinct category of analysis for women’s lives. Marital status fractures the gender of women into identities that are deeply structured by relations of power and privilege, creating some fundamental separations between the married woman and the never-married (‘ever-single’) woman. By taking marital status into account, we can learn more about the historical intersections between women, gender, and society. By setting the heterosexual dyad aside, we can delve more fully into the varied life-sustaining relationships that women forged, especially with other women. We can more thoroughly reconstruct the social contexts of feminist ideas, and the roots of a female citizenship based on a direct rather than deflected relationship to the nation. We can also trace the nascence of an ‘individual’ female subjectivity based in self-reverence rather than self-effacement. And we can decentre the conjugal family, especially the heterosexual dyad, as the essential unit of the Canadian past and the only legitimate site for women’s sexuality. The ‘borderlands’ of British Columbia before the Second World War are an excellent place to examine the lives and identities of ever-single women, given the astonishing number of (ever-)single women present in unique demographic and economic conditions that would seem to militate against singleness. This project looks at four themes: survival, status, relationships, and identity. Material conditions of income and household composition offer us some of the strategies of survival single women employed. Looking at the discursive boundaries of certain social groups emphasizes the centrality of single women to (all levels of) society and the leadership that single women bring to both crafting and policing the borders of status groups. The patterns of relationships that ever-single women built and their voices on being single offer important models for thinking through women’s affective lives that do not privilege the heterosexual dyad. And the emplacement of the ever-single woman as  ‘outside  heterosexuality’  suggests  some  ways  though  the  bind  of  the  heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy in thinking about women’s lives and especially the hybrid nature of their autobiographical voices.  ii  Table of Contents Abstract ...........................................................................................ii Tables .............................................................................................iv Figures.............................................................................................v Acknowledgements One: Contexts of singleness ............................................................1 The image of the single woman .......................................................................................... 3 Marital status as a category of analysis ............................................................................ 17 Contexts for the single woman in Canadian history and historiography ........................... 20 Singleness on the borderlands ......................................................................................... 28  Two: Conditions of singleness ......................................................38 Importing single newcomer women .................................................................................. 39 Tracing the urban single woman: Victoria 1901................................................................ 40 Beyond the census: ever-single women ........................................................................... 70 The class of single women................................................................................................ 76  Three: Making it in Vancouver: Respectability, status, and the single woman...........................................................................................86 High Society and the single woman.................................................................................. 91 Sporting women of the demimonde ................................................................................ 102 Securing femininity.......................................................................................................... 116 Respectability, status, and social survival....................................................................... 127  Four: Emotional geographies ......................................................132 Reading for relationships ................................................................................................ 135 Narratives of singleness.................................................................................................. 141 Emotional geographies ................................................................................................... 155 Multiple intimacies........................................................................................................... 174  Five: Eccentric subjects...............................................................176 Mapping the eccentric subject ........................................................................................ 181 ‘Truth,’ voice, and self-image .......................................................................................... 185 Heroic narratives............................................................................................................. 193 Maps of the ever-single life on the borderlands .............................................................. 212  Conclusions: Pandora’s box ........................................................216 Ever-single women on the borderlands .......................................................................... 217 Opening Pandora’s box .................................................................................................. 225  Bibliography................................................................................228 Archival sources.............................................................................................................. 228 Published primary documents......................................................................................... 230 Secondary sources ......................................................................................................... 232 Recommended reading................................................................................................... 243  Appendix A - Tables ...................................................................246 Appendix B – Methods ...............................................................250 Finding single women ..................................................................................................... 250 Subsistence threshold (300.00) calculation .................................................................... 256  iii  Tables Table 1: Women, comparative Victoria, BC, and Canada, 1881 .......................................... 31 Table 2: Women, comparative Victoria, BC, and Canada, 1901 .......................................... 31 Table 3: Women over 30, Victoria, 1881-1901 ..................................................................... 44 Table 4: Reporting of occupations by women in Athenas sample ........................................ 44 Table 5: Occupations reported in Athenas sample, by category .......................................... 47 Table 6: Comparison: Distribution of women by leading occupational groups, Canada 1901 & Single women 30 and older, Victoria 1901 ................................................................ 48 Table 7: Proportion of single women over 30 in domestic service, 1901 Victoria................. 49 Table 8: Earnings, Athenas sample ...................................................................................... 50 Table 9: Top 15 individual occupations reporting income plus 'Retired/Not Given/Unknown,' ranked by highest median income ................................................................................ 51 Table 10: Top 15 individual occupations reporting income plus 'Retired/Not Given/Unknown,' ranked by highest income reported............................................................................... 52 Table 11: Relationship to head of household, Athenas sample............................................ 53 Table 12: 'Living with kin,' Athenas sample .......................................................................... 54 Table 13: Single people over 30, relationship to head of household, 1901 Victoria ............. 56 Table 14: Place of birth, Athenas sample ............................................................................. 63 Table 15: ‘Colour,’ Athenas sample ...................................................................................... 64 Table 16: Race (descent)a, Athenas sample ........................................................................ 64 Table A: Women 15 years and over, Canada, 1891-1931.................................................. 246 Table B: Table of individual occupations, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample ........................ 246 Table C: Distribution of women by leading occupational groups, Canada 1901 & Single women, Victoria 1901 (full) ......................................................................................... 247 Table D: Relationship to head of household, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample................... 247 Table E: Relationship to head, by earnings category, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample ..... 248 Table F: Place of birth, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample..................................................... 248 Table G: Canadian-born, province of birth, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample...................... 249 Table H: Race, 1901 Victoria (Athenas) sample................................................................. 249  iv  Figures Figure 1: ‘That Troublesome Youngster,’ Grip 5 November 1881 ..................................9 Figure 2: ‘Miss Canada's School,’ Grip 8 November 1873 ............................................10  v  Acknowledgements I’d like to acknowledge all the support I’ve received over my doctoral programme and the stages of this project. My advisor, Dianne Newell, is not only exceptionally generous with praise and support, but also a wonderful collaborator as well. Who else could I meet for a ‘short meeting’ and emerge five hours later, invigorated by the flash and pop of ideas shared between us? Through her mentorship and partnership I have developed from student to scholar. Throughout the final stages of this thesis I have been grateful for the excellent comments and suggestions by my thesis committee members, Gerry Pratt and Becki Ross. I was fortunate to receive financial support from various quarters throughout my doctoral programme. Thanks to the Native Daughters of British Columbia and British Columbia Heritage Trust, whose awards fed my much-needed research fund. From the University of British Columbia I received the Gertrude Langridge Scholarship in the Humanities, the Tina & Morris Wagner Fellowship, and the University Graduate Fellowship. I am also grateful for the support of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship. I’d also like to thank the early mentors who drew me onto this path: Mark Leupold, History teacher at Luther College High School, who showed my that history was an exciting and compelling art; Robin Swales, professor in History at the University of Regina and my honours advisor, whose inspiring love for the early modern period I share; and Nick Terpstra, professor at Luther College (University campus) and now at the University of Toronto, who was a Master’s advisor extraordinaire. When I was new to UBC, Bob MacDonald was our dynamic and open grad chair who made everything smooth and welcoming. Chris Friedrichs was an excellent and inspiring person to TA for. Gloria Lees and now Jennifer Kho, the grad secretaries, have been infinitely helpful and have made negotiating through grad school without incident possible. (I already miss talking soccer with Gloria). Many thanks to Sue Wendell, emerita professor of Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, whose insights into feminist theory and the game of grad school have helped shape my path. Thanks also to Joy Parr, for her early support of my project when she was at SFU, as well as Valerie Raoul and Jean Barman, who have always been supportive of my  vi  work. Thanks also to the members of the Scholars of Single Women Network for key ideas and showing up at the conference sessions I organized at the CHA in 2002. Linda Hale at Langara College gave me my first job as a marker and more importantly, plenty of good advice. Sylvie Murray, head of History at the University College of the Fraser Valley, has been an enormously generous and supportive ‘boss’ and I am very grateful for all the opportunities I have had at this wonderful institution for teaching and development. Kim Snowden, co-editor of thirdspace (the peer-reviewed feminist studies journal which we founded in 2001), has been a source of support and conversation on all things grad school, and of course all things related to journal publishing. Martinis are definitely in order. Thanks also go to Valerie Raoul in her capacity as Director of the Centre for Research in Women’s Studies and Gender Relations, for her crucial support of thirdspace in its formative years. To my friends, who have been wondering when I will emerge from my cocoon and have learned to ask subtle variations on the theme of ‘when will you be done,’ I say thanks for your support, and forgive my infrequent visits and spotty attendance record at gatherings – I still think its worth it and hope you do too. Jamie, your porch conversations showed me I didn’t have to fear being both a feminist and a friend. Param, your enthusiastic support of my big move out to the coast and your continuing friendship are of infinite value to me. (This is as close as I could get to citing you in my thesis, sorry!) Steve and Kara – Boom! Verdes? Glenn and Cindy - Starbuck! My family has been wondering what I am doing with all these years in school – well, here it is. To my brother Jaremy, whom I am profoundly proud of, thanks for the advice and the phone rants and the computer help. And for your friendship - and Lori’s too - it means so very much. To my mom and my dad, who have always supported my quest for higher education, in words, deeds, and cash, and who have watched with amusement and possible trepidation for some time for me to actually be done school and join the real world, here I am finally. (I have bad news though – academia is not the real world. But it’s my real world.) Thanks to Paul and ‘mother-in-friend’ BJ, who have made a home away from home for me. To my Granny, who always told me I could – and should – do whatever I want and not worry about getting married, and then who loved Brett with all her heart, my thanks. To my Grandma, whose energy and work ethic shame me, thanks especially for all the little gifts  vii  that were so nice to get, especially in the starving student days. And Grandpa and Milly, who have always supported whatever I did but wondered if I’m not getting too educated to get a job. Well, you’re probably right. For my other grandfathers, Papa and John, who left us during my time here at UBC, the sorrow will never leave, but neither will your words and memory. And Brett. Someone once remarked in their acknowledgements, that in a way it was odd to thank the most important person last. But the day begins and ends with Brett, my beloved partner, even if – as has been too often this last year – that’s all we see of each other. But even the quiet clacking of the computer next to me is infinitely comforting. And I have been doubly lucky to have a fellow-traveller in the trenches of both grad school and teaching, and I look forward to the time when we can really dig into our lives as academics. And maybe get a dog.  viii  For my Papa and John - you taught me to work and to love. My arms are emptier now.  ‹  And for Brett - whose everyday ideal of equal partnership has made this journey possible. I choose you still.  ix  One: Contexts of singleness It is with spinsterhood as with greatness; some are born old maids, some achieve old maidenhood and some have single blessedness thrust upon them. […] Born old maids […] are destined to that state from the cradle, and were as firmly settled in it at thirteen as at thirty or forty. Achieving spinsterhood can be accomplished in various ways. The flirt and coquette attain to it in surprise […]. They were fascinating instead of attractive, and overdid it. The bad tempered often achieve it, unless they marry upon short acquaintance […]. Thus originates the peevish and sour old maid, who forms a very small proportion of the whole class, in spite of the paragraphers and cartoonists. The third class are most to be pitied, and yet they do not want pity, merely sympathetic comprehension and friendliness. The single state has been thrust upon them. […] they were located in tiny villages or in the wilds where there were no marriageable men. […] Then there are girls whose sense of duty and responsibility make them give up the claims of love. To wait upon enfeebled parents, to care for motherless brothers and sisters, or to be mother to a brother’s orphaned flock, many a girl has given up her lover.1 – Editorial in the “Home Journal” section in The Farmer’s Advocate, Dec. 4, 1910  Despite the great and varied public dialogue on the spinster throughout the Western world in the vital decades of social and economic change between the 1880s and 1930s, it is only recently that the study of “single” women has emerged as a growing sub-field of women’s history. Women’s history and gender history have developed into nuanced and complex fields, taking into account the multiple dimensions of women’s lives, including race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class. However, most studies still concentrate, consciously or not, on married women. Although at all times in Western history, the majority of women were married to men, this condition was by no means absolute, and the proportion of women without domestic ties to men – legally and socially defined as never married, separated, divorced, widowed, or abandoned – could be significant. The woman who did not marry (or found herself without a husband at some time over her life-cycle) had a very different 1  Home Journal, The Farmer’s Advocate, December 4, 1910. Rpt. in Norah L. Lewis, ed. Dear Editor and Friends: Letters from Rural Women of the North-West, 1900-1920 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1998), 95-6.  1  experience of work, economic survival, and social interaction than her married counterpart. Between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries in particular, living arrangements, family relations, and the pursuit of lifelong waged labour marked her life as significantly different from the married woman’s. Thus marital status was an essential division between women, one that cut across class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. This study highlights some key aspects of singleness and single women’s lives. Not a male, yet not taking a normative female role (marriage and motherhood), what roles, status, and identities could the single woman access? If her social class and especially her occupation became more important to her identity than her (absent) marital ties, it is possible that the adult, autonomous, privileged single woman took on (and unsettled) the identifying aspects of social citizenship mostly enjoyed by White, middle-class men: employment, economic independence, and self-authorized life choices. Such a potential subjectivity lent by economics and class, however, was highly contingent on age, race/ethnicity, and sexuality, and how the combination of these social forces affected the life chances of women who chose or were forced to remain single is critical to study. As women in Canada, the UK, and the US moved from legal infants to voting citizens through the decades between 1880 and 1930, the transition and struggle in these years from women’s constrictive identification with nature and motherhood to autonomous personhood can be seen in the lives of women who did not take up marriage but instead remained outside traditional roles. Yet this period also saw a strengthening of negative stereotypes around the unmarried woman, from the unwanted spinster to the diseased prostitute to the dangerous lesbian. The idea that a woman who never married was a victim of misfortune, a deviant, or had ‘something wrong with her,’ is one we have not shed even today – and this has had an effect on the status of the single woman as a fit subject for historical study. This project reveals the rich field of data, experiences, and identities that can be found in the study of single women. Although I concentrate on one particular and unique region and time period in Canada – British Columbia’s newcomer settlement frontier before 1930 – the scholarship of single women is a vital and underdeveloped element of historical studies of all geographical areas and eras. Single women were central players in the history of immigration, education, art, labour, politics, and culture in Canada and the West as a whole, especially in the transformative years between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth  2  centuries. The term ‘single woman’ also encompasses a fairly broad range of female identities from young girl to working adult to elderly woman. In fact, the single woman was a ubiquitous historical figure, whose salience across geographical and temporal lines, and across classes and ethnicities, ages and sexualities, makes it all the more surprising that she has been, on the whole, relegated to a side note in historical scholarship. In this project, I focus on the ‘ever-single’ woman – a mature female adult who never married. In this study, I am framing the term ‘single’ in its widest sense, including the partnered but not legally married lesbian, as well as the heterosexual (or asexual), neverpartnered, never-married woman - in short, the legally never-married woman who was not in a domestic conjugal relationship with a male. To remove all women who might have had conjugal relation with women creates a division between the ‘evidential’ lesbian (requiring evidence of sexual acts) and the never-partnered woman (by default presumed heterosexual) that I seek to avoid in this study, as all are, in my analysis, ‘outside heterosexuality.’ In focusing on ever-single women, I have discovered that they can offer important perspectives to the study of women and history; and while the resources for research on this significant group can pose difficulties, they are abundant. In addition, a significant part of this study is the personal and particular: the identities and subjectivities exhibited by eversingle women in their own autobiographical materials, which offer us a unique window into mainstream social ideals and practices – a matrix of adoption and resistance of inestimable value for scholars. Thus my focus is the ever-single ‘spinster,’ but of necessity I will also examine where appropriate the dynamic and varied category that is the larger context of single women – that wider group of women who were single at a given time but might cycle out (and even back into) singleness throughout their lives.  The image of the single woman As the epigraph above demonstrates, a number of reasons, both practical and personal, circulated in popular culture to explain why some women remained ever-single in industrial societies such as Canada through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet historically, women who did not marry have experienced a detrimental public image. At times, they could be praised as viragos, even women warriors, eschewing (or denied) the traditional role of wife in the home to compete and serve in the public arena of work and  3  politics. But to most women and men, the single woman was a pathetic or even suspect figure, embodying a ‘failure’ to make a match with a man, or even a wilful deviance from prescribed female roles of domesticity, service, and governance by males.2 Single women were also bombarded by social prescription that assumed every real woman was to be a mother, and a woman who would not or could not take up this role was selfish, a failure, or a deviant. Central was the ideal of the nature of Woman as helpmeet and mother, exemplified in the ‘Cult of True Womanhood,’ a widespread prescriptive ideology shared by the Canadian, British, and American bourgeoisie that came into full flower by the 1860s in America and lingered in various guises through to the twentieth century.3 This important nineteenthcentury ideal emphasized the virtues of piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity, embodied in the only ‘true’ role of Woman, motherhood. Middle class, White, and Protestant, the True Woman’s ordained sphere was the kitchen and nursery. Sexually passive, her function was reproductive, and any energies spent on other functions (such as education) depleted her store for reproduction and threatened her future children’s health – and thus the health of the nation. Yet as the avatar of all moral values, her moral character was of utmost importance and she was to teach and embody for her family its highest good. Ultimately, she “sought influence, not power.”4 The fear of ‘race suicide’ (the decline of the numerical hegemony of white, economically prosperous, Anglo-Saxon peoples) reinforced the nation’s need of the True Woman and was a topic of much debate in early twentieth-century Canada. In a 1908 speech, Mrs. (Dr.) Wickett of the WCTU warned that Anglo-Canadians were threatened by the more fecund French-Canadians, “all because we women, for various reasons, shrink from the duty and joys of motherhood.”5 2  Sheila Jeffreys offers a valuable survey of the ideology surrounding the spinster in the British context, The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality 1880-1930, 2nd ed. (North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1997). See also Veronica Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled: Lives of Girls and Women in English Canada, 1919-1939 (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1988), 103; and Elaine Showalter’s exploration of singleness as deviance in Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (New York: Viking, 1990), 19-20. 3 . Barbara Welter, whose work on early- to mid-nineteenth-century American prescriptive literature brought the term ‘True Woman’ into scholarly discourse, notes that “authors who addressed themselves to the subject of women in the mid-nineteenth century used this phrase as frequently as writers on religion mentioned God.” Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860” American Quarterly 18/2 (Summer 1966), 151. 4 Carroll Smith-Rosenburg, “Hearing Women’s Words” in C. Smith-Rosenburg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 16, 23. 5 Mariana Valverde, “‘When the Mother of the Race is Free’: Race, Reproduction, and Sexuality in First-Wave Feminism” in Franca Iacovetta and Mariana Valverde, eds. Gender Conflicts: New Essays in Women’s History  4  After the turn of the century, debates on the nature of Woman centred less on whether she should be educated or take on public roles, and more on what place those nowacceptable, middle-class female pursuits had in ‘real’ women’s lives, as wives and mothers. One nation-wide debate that would seem to have offered an opening for ever-single women was suffrage. The discourse over the right to vote contested women’s secondary place in the nation, including the right and ability of women for self-determination, for individuality, and for citizenship. In the US and Britain, a strong core of ‘radical’ equal-rights feminists maintained a presence for the independent woman within suffrage debates.6 However, in Canada the majority of suffragists were in some form adherents of maternal feminism, which in essence promoted the citizenship of women as flowing naturally from their ordained roles as wives and mothers. Some conceptual room was made for the single woman in an extension of the maternal model that allowed for a ‘public motherhood’ in social services such as nursing, teaching, and social work.7 Although suffrage was a key arena for single women to assert their right to independence and full political citizenship, the power of the maternalist discourse often succeeded in subsuming their aims under this essentialist umbrella. This mainstream ambivalence to single women continued into the post-suffrage era, when gains in access to education and middle-class employment for women had expanded the choices for privileged young White women, at least theoretically. However, marriage remained the ultimate goal for all ‘real’ women, although a stint in higher education, a job, or even a short professional career could be acknowledged as respectable  (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 17. At the same time, the eugenics movement took on momentum, calling for the ‘unfit’ to be restricted in their reproduction (often through institutionalization or sterilization) for similar reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, aboriginals, people of colour or non-Western European origin, the poor, and people with disabilities were prime targets and appear among the sterilized far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. See Angus McLaren, Our Own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990). 6 Single women – including legally single women who had female partners – were prominent in the suffrage movements in the UK and US: see Faderman’s first section ‘How American Women Got Enfranchised’ in To Believe in Women: What Lesbians have Done for America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999) and Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies. 7 See Wayne Roberts, “‘Rocking the Cradle for the World’: The New Woman and Maternal Feminism, Toronto 1877-1914” and Deborah Gorham, “Flora McDonald Denison: Canadian Feminist” in Linda Kealey, ed. A Not Unreasonable Claim: Women and Reform in Canada, 1880s-1920s (Toronto: Canadian Women’s Educational Press, 1979), 15-45. Although the maternalist stance and role of married women was dominant, key figures like Alice Chown in Ontario and Francis Marion Beynon in Manitoba advocated for suffrage based on equal rights philosophies. See Alice Chown’s autobiography, The Stairway, ed. and with an introduction by Diana Chown (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1988).  5  for many women, as long as it was understood to be a prelude to their ‘real’ careers as wives and mothers. Mary Vipond finds that in the mass-circulation magazines of the 1920s, it was generally assumed that women would work for a few years before marriage. But a clear-cut choice, of marriage or a career, was pointed out for women, and “the magazines left no doubt that in their view every true woman chose marriage if she could.”8 Young women were assured that “success in a job would stand them in good stead when they became wives and mothers.” As a caveat, it would also prepare them for “the exigencies of spinsterhood or early widowhood.”9 Yet even the now-acceptable figure of the “working daughter” still threatened the home. In a 1920 speech before the middle-class Women’s Canadian Club in Victoria, Mrs. C.E. Clarke argued that overburdened mothers and neglected children are often the effects of daughters being employed outside the home. In answer to mothers who ask “why should she remain at home to do housework when she can be independent?” Clarke responds “If your daughter is to be of that 80 per cent [that marry], give her employment which will fit her for it.” Clarke argues: Truly we can do so-called men’s work as well or even better than the men, but in doing it are we not leaving undone a work which men cannot do […] which is the greatest work of the nation? […]Say what we will, woman’s chief work is home, husband and children, and it behooves us to see that we do not become slackers.10  The maternal imperative also cut across class lines, although working-class activists were more likely to critique the economic barriers to marriage and healthy motherhood. Lillian Broadhurst, writing in the Woman Worker in 1927, remarked sympathetically on the imposed celibacy of poverty, when low wages and poor working conditions made people delay marriage, perhaps permanently. However, for the middle class she saw celibacy and childlessness as nothing less than “immoral”: “When I see a lovely woman without children,  8  Mary Vipond, “The Image of Women in Canadian Mass Circulation Magazines in the 1920s” in Susan Mann Trofimenkoff and Alison Prentice, eds. The Neglected Majority: Essays in Canadian Women’s History (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977), 119. 9 Vipond, “Image of Women,” 118. 10 “Scores Maidens Who Commercialize Life” The Victoria Daily Colonist, March 17, 1920, 9.  6  I think of that quotation of Shakespeare’s – ‘Lady, you are the cruellest she alive if you lead these graces to the grave and leave the world no copy.’”11 Yet despite the seemingly universal and self-evident nature of Woman as wife-andmother, multiple images of the spinster traversed the pages of English-language literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the interwar period. From the extreme caricature of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861) to the figure of the invert (lesbian) Stephen Gordon seeking acceptance in Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928), a wealth of images of the single woman – the majority deeply ambivalent to negative – appeared in novels, serial fiction, newspapers, polemical literature, and political cartoons in Canada, the UK, and the US.12 To this we can add the many serial novellas, letters, and advice columns dealing with single women that appeared in Canadian newspapers at this time – ranging in theme from anxiety over the New Woman to laments by the ‘woman alone.’ Although many of the voices heard in these fora are heavily prescriptive, some positive discourse on singleness can also be found. In Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations (1861), Miss Havisham stands in many ways as the foundation of the stock figure of the spinster. Jilted on the day of her wedding, wealthy Miss Havisham’s life was literally stopped at the very hour she received the news of her betrayal; she even remains, decades later, half-dressed in her wedding gown. Her only pleasure in life is instructing her young female ward in how to use her beauty to enslave (then betray) men, and in tormenting her relatives, who yearn for her fortune when she dies. Miss Havisham is merely an extreme version of the images of the spinster that were popular through the turn of the century and into the interwar period: a woman who evokes pity or disquiet, having no dreams beyond the wedding day (that never comes); a figure of malice, officious interference, or superfluity/marginality in the community; and a symbol of the tragic end to family lines and fortunes. The other prevalent image of the spinster was that of poverty and want. In George Gissing’s popular British novel, The Odd Women (1893), Monica Madden, thrown on her 11  Mrs Lillian Broadhurst, “The Case For Birth Control” The Woman Worker November 1927, 13. Rpt. in Margaret Hobbs and Joan Sangster, eds. The Woman Worker, 1926-1929 (St. John’s, Nfld.: Canadian Committee on Labour History, 1999), 213-14. 12 Both Sheila Jeffreys and Laura Doan offer good surveys of the image of the spinster in Britain in this period: Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies; and Laura Doan, Old Maids to Radical Spinsters: Unmarried Women in the Twentieth-Century Novel (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991).  7  own resources by the death of her father, sees only the vulnerability of her sisters on a meagre fixed income (and the exhaustion of her own life as an ill-paid shop-girl): She thought of her sisters. Their loneliness was for life, poor things. Already they were old; and they would grow older, sadder, perpetually struggling to supplement that dividend from the precious capital – and merely that they might keep alive. Oh! – her heart ached at the misery of such a prospect. How much better if the poor girls had never been born.13  Canadian images of the spinster run along these well-worn grooves, as editorials and serial fiction from the Toronto Globe attests. In an 1888 edition of the Globe, Marion Harland noted that doting fathers who might take umbrage at the thought of their daughters marrying and moving away from them needed to be warned of “the approach of the day when sheltering walls and arms will have fallen away from the lonely spinster, leaving her the forlornest being alive – always and everywhere excepting a confirmed old bachelor.”14 Even the most successful spinster was missing something elemental in her life. In M.E. Braddon’s “The Fatal Three” (1888), Miss Fawcett was a successful woman in every sense: a lady of wealth, impeccable manners, intellect, and taste. Yet the “chilling” grays and silvers of Miss Fawcett’s excellently appointed rooms and clothing denote an essential lack in her life, presumably the colour and warmth of marriage and family.15 In “The Deaconess and the Doctor,” Miss Beamer – an otherwise sympathetic figure who declares “there’s no sickly sentimentality about me” – is gently coerced by her younger neighbour, a younger spinster and deaconess, into being “useful” in the community by giving care to an indigent sick child. Nell, the sick child, works her way into the supposedly unemotional older woman’s heart and is brought to live with her in Miss Beamer’s wealthy but empty home. As a bonus, the medical specialist the rich spinster hires to care for Nell turns out to be an old beau of the younger deaconess, and the first steps to matrimony are taken.16 This is an oft-repeated narrative: the impoverished but genteel (and still attractive) spinster is portrayed as a figure deserving of pity, who very often in the end marries some long-lost fiancé or other suddenly-  13  George Gissing, The Odd Women [1893], Arlene Young, ed. (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1998), 58. Marion Harland, “Choosing a Husband” The Globe Saturday, 7 April 1888, 12. 15 M.E.Braddon, “The Fatal Three” The Globe 7 April 1888, 11. 16 Jean Blewett, “The Deaconess and the Doctor” The Globe Thursday, 16 October 1902, 8. 14  8  arrived eligible mate.17 Balancing that (sometimes in the same text) is the spinster as a garrulous, meddling gossip, who often threatens to bring the happy matrimonial prospects of others to ruin.18 The popular images of the spinster were universal enough to allow prolific political cartoonist J.W. Bengough to adapt them for his commentaries on politics and nation in his late-nineteenth century Canadian political magazine, Grip.  Figure 1: ‘That Troublesome Youngster,’ Grip 5 November 188119  17  See for example Florence M. Kingsley, “The Transfiguration of Miss Philura” The Globe Saturday 5 July 1902, 14. 18 Kingsley, “The Transfiguration of Miss Philura”; Justin McCarthy, “Kate Lyle’s Vengeance” The Globe Saturday, 16 June 1900, 9. 19 John Wilson Bengough, A Caricature History of Canadian Politics: Events from the Union of 1841, as Illustrated by Cartoons from "Grip", and Various Other Sources, vol. I (Toronto: The Grip Printing and Publishing Co, 1886), 247. Adapted for clearer reading.  9  In this cartoon, Bengough is playing on the well-known image of the spinster who thinks (rightly or wrongly) she knows more about raising a child than an indulgent mother, to demonstrate partisan wrangling over federal policy. As ‘Pharos’ gently mocks her fellow spinsters in her letters column in the Globe in 1891: “You know that the pragmatical spinster is quite famous as an explicator of child-nature; so much so that her genius has been crystallized into proverb. Old maids’ children are always shining examples.”20 Bengough also frequently used the allegorical figure of ‘Miss Canada’ to convey his ideals of Canadian nationalism and politics to his readers, often in themes of youth: through references to the young nation’s need for protection and tutelage, or her vulnerability to the US-as-suitor or aggressor.21 At other times, she was depicted as the personification of electoral and/or moral authority.  Figure 2: ‘Miss Canada's School,’ Grip 8 November 187322  20  ‘Pharos’ in “From A Woman’s Standpoint” The Globe Saturday, 19 August 1893, 5. Christina Burr, “Gender, Sexuality, and Nationalism in J. W. Bengough’s Verses and Political Cartoons,” Canadian Historical Review 83/4 (2002), 505. 22 John Wilson Bengough, A Caricature History of Canadian Politics: Events from the Union of 1841, as Illustrated by Cartoons from "Grip", and Various Other Sources, vol. II (Toronto: The Grip Printing and 21  10  Through the turn of the century and into the 1920s, the ‘spinster’ continued to be a stock character of fiction, but she increasingly shared the stage with the New Woman, the Gibson Girl, the flapper, and near the end of the interwar period, the lesbian. The Gibson Girl and the New Woman were simultaneous evocations of the changes after the 1870s across Britain and North America in single women’s access to education, professions, and independence, although with differing advocates and effects. The Gibson Girl and her later counterpart, the flapper, were successive images of female self-assertion and independence, yet they were essentially images of young (and affluent) women, who would still be eligible for marriage after a foray into higher education, travel, and work. The Gibson Girl was a product of the American cartoonist Charles Dana Gibson, who created an image of the ‘modern,’ active young woman whose attractiveness lay not only in her beauty but also her wit and poise, moving easily from the social scene to the golf course. However, as Angelika Köhler points out, in the end the Gibson girl was a very ambiguous figure, able to be deployed both by conservatives seeking to rein in women’s opportunities and feminists seeking to widen them. She was a new type of girl, not a new woman, and her “dynamism and flexibility” were countered by her liminality: she will, in the end, adhere to the maternalist ideal and marry.23 Her later evocation, the flapper, was also a figure of limited impact: as Veronica Strong-Boag notes, “the flapper with her short hair and short skirts was an essentially confrontational figure, poised to contest the conventions of workplace and bedroom” but one whose salience and power receded with the onset of the Depression.24 As a working-class woman, she was  Publishing Co, 1886), 185. Here Miss Canada is the familiar figure of the schoolteacher, admonishing the new Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie to behave or suffer Sir John A. Macdonald’s fate - going to the back of the class with a dunce cap. Adapted for clearer reading. 23 Angelika Köhler, “Charged with Ambiguity: The Image of the New Woman in American Cartoons” in A.Heilmann and M.Beetham, eds. New Woman Hybridities (London: Routledge, 2004). For a Canadian context, see Terry A. Crowley, “Madonnas Before Magdalenes: Adelaide Hoodless and the Making of the Canadian Gibson Girl” Canadian Historical Review 67 (1986): 520-547. Interestingly enough, the Gibson Girl mostly appears as a shorthand for certain hair and clothing styles in fiction and ads in the Globe between the turn of the century and the Great War. 24 Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled, 7. See also Angela J. Latham, Posing a Threat: Flappers, Chorus Girls, and Other Brazen Performers of the American 1920s (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 2000).  11  the source of considerable anxiety and a host of legal and social policies to protect – and constrain – her from becoming the logical end of such female independence: the prostitute.25 It was the New Woman that posed the potentially greater and more lasting threat to the Cult of the True Woman and compulsory female dependence.26 In 1898 Jean Blewett, a frequent contributor to the Globe’s fiction sections, offered the sensible spinster’s critique of unworthy men and her impatience at young women’s lack of sense in loving them, having been taught that ‘romance’ was their only destiny. Miss Dorcas declares: “the new woman can’t get here any too soon. There is plenty of room for her and her innovations, bless her! I only hope […] that she’ll have about half as much heart as the old woman, and double the quantity of common sense.”27 First seen in the fight to access higher education, then the professions, the New Woman eschewed marriage, and her middle-class White privilege allowed her to “defy proprieties, pioneer new roles, and still insist upon a rightful place within the genteel world.”28 As Olive Schreiner described the attention paid the New Woman in 1911, “On every hand she is examined, praised, blamed […] ridiculed or deified – but nowhere can it be said, that the phenomenon of her existence is overlooked.”29 The greater – and much more dangerous – programme of the New Woman centred on her potential to forge a life without men, advocating instead female independence and attainment in the public sphere. As Carroll Smith-Rosenburg notes, To place a woman outside of a domestic setting, to train a woman to think and feel “as a man,” to encourage her to succeed at a career, indeed to place a career before marriage, violated virtually every late-Victorian norm. It was literally to take her outside of conventional structures and social arrangements.30  A useful image of the New Woman in a Canadian setting is presented, interestingly enough, in an 1895 text-based ‘testimonial’ ad placed in the Globe for Paine’s Celery Compound, one 25  For a discussion of the social purity movement and the ‘white slavery’ panic over innocent girls being lured into prostitution, see Mariana Valverde, The Age of Light, Soap, and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991). 26 For a collection of documents on the New Woman in the British context, see Juliet Gardiner, ed. The New Woman (London: Collins & Brown, 1993). See also Sheila Jeffreys’ discussion of the spinster as on strike from marriage and gender inequality: Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies, 90-91. 27 Jean Blewett, “Miss Dorcas Talks of the Girl in Love” The Globe Saturday, 7 May 1898, 9. 28 Carroll Smith-Rosenburg, “The New Woman as Androgyne” in Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 245. 29 Olive Schreiner, Woman and Labor (1911), 266, qtd in Patricia Murphy, Time Is of the Essence: Temporality, Gender, and the New Woman (New York: SUNY Press, 2001), 3. 30 Smith-Rosenburg, “The New Woman as Androgyne,” 252.  12  of the wide range of ‘health tonics,’ often aimed at women, that purported to cure any number of ills. Declaring herself a New Woman, Miss Isabella Blake wants it to be known that she has not “adopted the fads of those light-brained women who would usurp the legitimate positions of men, and go through life half-clad in masculine attire, with the fixed idea of altering the plans of an all-wise Providence, and turning the world upside-down.” Rather, she is “healthy, vigorous, strong and active”31 – a positive trait presumably in opposition to those ‘false’ New Women that want independence (as well as the frail, clinging True Woman). That the ad still needs to appeal to women who might think of themselves as ‘New Women’ – but not those canting feminist types – demonstrates a very interesting ambivalence with which Canadian audiences might perceive the new images of publicly active, educated women. To this ambivalence was added another figure of the single woman by the 1930s: the lesbian. Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928) represents a watershed in the popularly available discourse on single women, replacing the pitiful and malicious (but asexual) Miss Havisham with the figure of the lesbian as the new problematic and deviant bordering figure for single women. Hall’s protagonist Stephen confronts the pains of growing up female but different: she is an ‘invert’ – a woman who has ‘male’ traits – and pursues intimate relationships with women.32 Although the book underwent an obscenity trial both in the UK and US, and was banned in the UK, the publicity that surrounded the trials and Hall herself gave the novel an extremely wide notoriety.33 The typically middle-class, educated readers of the Canadian Forum would have seen a fairly sympathetic review of Hall’s novel 31  The Globe Saturday, 2 November 1895, 14. Other ads featured the New Woman as consumer: New Women “should at once make themselves acquainted with the Luxurious Easy and Lounging Chairs” declare the Davies Bros. Company – sensing a market niche of women with incomes of their own and possibly rooms of their own to furnish as well (The Globe Saturday, 3 August 1895, 4). 32 Exposure to her father’s carefully hidden texts on sexology (the new branch of psychology that established its practitioners as experts on sexual deviance) confirm for Stephen that she is an ‘invert.’ The bulk of the narrative involves Stephen’s successes and failures in crafting a life for herself, amid family rejection and the new opportunities for women brought by the Great War. The novel ends after Stephen, having contested for possession of her female lover with a man (her former best friend), deliberately capitulates in order to give her lover an easier life – an identity as heterosexual and ‘normal.’ Stephen then dedicates her life and writing to publicizing the plight of the invert in a hostile world. In his preface to the book, Havelock Ellis (a key figure in sexology) endorsed its sensitive and knowledgeable handling of the plight of the invert. Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (Garden City, N.Y.: Sun Dial Press, 1928). 33 The Well was a very popular book in North America from its first US printing in 1928: 20,000 copies were sold in the first month and 100,000 within a year; by the end of December 1928, it had seen its second, third, and fourth printings. Leslie A. Taylor, “‘I Made Up My Mind to Get It’: The American Trial of The Well of Loneliness, New York City, 1928-1929” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10/2 (2001), 261.  13  in April 1928, and the book was available in print in Canada through Hall’s American publishers.34 The publication of Hall’s novel was birthed by and in response to the rise of a psychologically-ridden image of the single woman as potentially sexually frustrated – or so unfeminine as to desire other women. The homosexual woman – the ‘invert’ or ‘lesbian’ – is important both as a term identifying a historically real subset of single women, and as a figure in socio-medical discourse that was used to re-define the borders of normative female existence between the turn of the twentieth century and the 1930s. The debates within the expanding field of sexology surrounding homosexuality and the role of heterosex in normative female functioning served to shift and solidify the borders around all women, leaving ever-single women effectively outside heterosexuality. In this period, sexology emerged as a discipline influenced by the developing fields of genetics and psychology. Laura Doan and Chris Waters note “in the late nineteenth century a series of distinct ‘scientific,’ clinical and discursive practices established a new taxonomy of ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour predicated upon the presumed existence of a normative heterosexuality.”35 Sexologists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, and Edward Carpenter developed psychological case studies of the homosexual or ‘invert’ in their clinical practices and published influential treatises that would be referenced in medical journals, British Parliamentary debates, and legal cases, as well as in fiction.36 Sexologists occupied a spectrum of political stances on the proper place (if any) of the invert in society. The early and prominent construction of homosexuality by Krafft-Ebing in Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) as a “manifestation of functional degeneration” remained very  34  Steven Maynard, “Radclyffe Hall in Canada” Centre/Fold 6 (Spring 1994), 9. Laura Doan and Chris Waters, “Homosexualities: Introduction” in Lucy Bland and Laura Doan, eds. Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 41. 36 For key excerpts from the sexological literature see two collections: Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis: With Especial Reference to the Antipathic Sexual Instinct. A Medico-Forensic Study [1886] (trans. of 12th ed., 1903), rpt. in Lucy Bland and Laura Doan, eds. Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. II: Sexual Inversion [1897] (3rd ed., 1915), rpt. in Lucy Bland and Laura Doan, eds. Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); and Edward Carpenter, “The Intermediate Sex” in E.Carpenter, Love’s Coming-of-Age [1914], rpt. in Ann Heilmann, ed. The Late-Victorian Marriage Question: A Collection of Key New Woman Texts (London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1998). 35  14  influential throughout the period.37 However, Doan and Waters argue that by the turn of century, leading sexologists worked (with varying effects) to counter the illness/vice models of homosexuality, espousing either a ‘third sex’ model as in the work of Edward Carpenter or the ‘sexual inversion’ model of Havelock Ellis.38 Edward Carpenter saw the invert as a positive figure, constituting a third or ‘intermediate’ sex, with women possessing the physical features of a female but the so-called characteristics of men (i.e. ‘logical, scientific, and precise’; an ‘active’ temperament; an aptitude for leadership).39 Carpenter’s sketch of the healthy intermediate woman, revolving chiefly around traits of responsibility, action, and intellect, led him to recommend her for “remarkable work, in professional life, or as manageress of institutions”40 – in short a description of the professional ever-single woman. This conflating of competence, ambition, and skill with masculinity – and thus inversion, if the person who held these traits was biologically female – was a common element in much of the sexological literature and put a scientific gloss on traditional notions of public success as male, and those women who pursued it as (perhaps dangerously) masculine. As Lillian Faderman argues, the various attempts of the sexologists at codifying the invert both made clearer and narrowed the possibilities of lesbian existence41; taking a broader view, it also meant that ever-single women regardless of sexual orientation would be caught up in the re-configuring of the borders of normative female existence.42 Even the key elements of respectable survival strategies for women were called into question by some sexologists: in what may have come as quite a surprise to many ever-single women, KrafftEbing declares “Suspicion may always be turned towards homosexuality when one reads in the advertisement columns of the daily papers: ‘Wanted, by a lady, a lady friend and companion.’”43 37  Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, 45. This is not surprising, since it closely mirrored discourses on the equation of moral vices with ‘race degeneration’ within the eugenics and maternal feminist movements in Canada, the US, and UK. See McLaren, Our Own Master Race. 38 Doan and Waters, “Homosexualities,” 42. 39 Carpenter, “Intermediate Sex,” 114. 40 Carpenter, “Intermediate Sex,” 132. 41 Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 36. 42 Sheila Jeffries demonstrates the bitter acrimony directed at the spinster for her ‘unnatural’ celibate state starting in the 1920s, even in British feminist circles. Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies, 93-7. 43 Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, 47.  15  And the chief traits of inversion were often exactly those traits exhibited by independent ever-single women. The identification of the female homosexual ‘type’ across the spectrum of sexology relied most heavily on characteristics that we would now understand as both feminist (refusing subordinate female roles) and consistent with survival as an independent adult: self-sufficiency, self-support, pursuing education and a profession – and displaying in a myriad of ways the self-confidence that might be built from these. Thus the construction of the invert served to build a clearer boundary around the ‘proper’ heterosexual woman and helped render all women without heterosexual credentials (husband and children) ‘outside’ heterosexuality. By the 1920s in psycho-medical circles in Canada, the UK, and the US, sexologists and other ‘experts’ attempted to reinscribe women’s natures as sexual and thus in need of heterosexual fulfilment (rather than a child, as with Victorian sensibilities) – portraying eversingle women’s lives now as dangerously psychologically impaired, not because of their lack of maternity, but supposed lack of (hetero)sex.44 Karen Chow notes for England in this period: Despite the threat of the censor, there was no escaping the new discourses of women’s sexuality in the popular media, in newspapers, novels, and films. […] sexual pleasure as represented in cross-class popular culture in the 1920s would reflect these discourses that presented women’s [hetero]sexual fulfillment as acceptable and even necessary.45  As Smith-Rosenburg asserts, the figure of the fulfilled and psychologically healthy heterosexual woman – and her opposite, the lesbian – became a powerful tool to foreclose women’s claims to economic and social equality: Linking orgasms to chic fashion and planned motherhood, male sex reformers, psychologists, and physicians promised a future of emotional support and sexual delights to women who accepted heterosexual marriage – and male economic  44  Sheila Jeffreys examines the invention in the 1920s of ‘frigidity,’ a psychosexual category that was deployed to define women who were indifferent or adverse to heterosexual intercourse as suffering from illness; of interest is several psychologists’ solution: that the frigid woman had to admit to her inferiority, submit to her husband in all things, and give up a sense of having her own personality. Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies, 182-3. 45 Karen Chow, “Popular Sexual Knowledges and Women’s Agency in 1920s England: Marie Stopes’s Married Love and E.M. Hull’s The Sheik” Feminist Review 63/1 (Autumn 1999), 71.  16  hegemony. Only the “unnatural” woman continued to struggle with men for economic independence and political power.46  Although the popular traditional images of the spinster would continue to be used in Englishlanguage fiction, these more complex and conflicting images of the single woman generated by fiction, political discourse, and the psycho-medical establishment by the interwar period would make for a more complicated landscape through which real ever-single women would negotiate their lives.  Marital status as a category of analysis But who were these real ‘spinsters,’ the women who remained single all their lives, within this matrix of conflicting values and beliefs about Woman’s nature and destiny? Simply asking this question requires a vital reworking of traditional methods and categories of historical analysis. Feminist scholars understand that various material and discursive conditions shaped women’s life choices, and that these conditions changed over time and were contingent upon interlocking factors of race, class, sexuality, age, ability, and region. Those conditions were also meditated by marital status – shaping the lives of single women fundamentally differently from married women. Just as Joan Scott envisions gender as “a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes” and “a primary way of signifying relationships of power,”47 marital status fractures the gender of women into identities that are deeply structured by relations of power and privilege. The allocation of economic resources and political and social status to women in most societies is deeply affected by women’s formal relationships to men. Because of this, marital status needs to be examined as a distinct category of analysis for women’s lives. Without examining the different experiences of women according to marital status, we subsume single women into married women’s experiences – much in the same way that studying the history of any group without reference to gender commonly collapses women’s experience into that of men. This preoccupation with married women, whether deliberate or not, not only excludes substantial numbers of women who did not marry, it also excludes most non-heterosexual women. Thus without attention to 46  Smith-Rosenburg, “The New Woman as Androgyne,” 283. Joan W. Scott, “Gender: a Useful Category of Historical Analysis” in J.W. Scott, ed. Feminism and History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 167. 47  17  marital status we risk privileging in our research only the women who fulfilled their society’s sanctioned, heteronormative female roles. It is important to note that the term ‘single women’ actually encompasses a varied spectrum of women’s roles and experiences – as varied as the many terms that existed to describe them: spinster, old maid, odd woman, virago, unattached, unmarried; ‘working girl’ and ‘business woman’; and ancient terms for homosexual women such as tribade and sapphist, and the modern term lesbian. This range of terms demonstrates the wide spectrum of identities single women could inhabit – or be placed into by society. This list also shows the difficulty in conceiving of women independent from male conjugal protection and supervision as other than different from ‘real’ women in some way. This problem is reflected in the trouble we often have in defining a clear separation between women who are not married at some point in their lives, and women who remain single all their lives. Judith Bennett and Amy Froide tackle this issue by dividing ‘single women’ into two groups in their important 1999 collection on single women in medieval and early modern Europe, Singlewomen in the European Past, 1250-1800. ‘Life-cycle’ singles were women who had been unmarried for some portion of their lives (including women before marriage and widowed, divorced, and abandoned women) and ‘lifelong’ singles had never married.48 This life-cycle approach captures a very important sub-division of single women, as it clarifies the difference between singleness as a temporary state – for young women who eventually marry, or women who have passed through marriage – and women for whom singleness is permanent. Throughout this project, I employ the term ‘ever-single’ in speaking of women who never marry, which in contrast to ‘never-married,’ de-centres marriage as the invisible norm for women and opens up the possibility of singleness becoming a legitimate referent of its own. I caution that I am not making a judgment here as to a choice that a particular woman might have made, but rather a historical, legal condition as seen by martial status at death. Both ‘single’ and ‘ever-single’ are used in this project, and employed for particular methodological reasons. ‘Ever-single’ is chiefly used to discuss the specificity of the eversingle experience, or to denote when the individuals or groups in question are actually known  48  Judith M. Bennett, and Amy M. Froide, “A Singular Past” in Judith M. Bennett and Amy M. Froide, eds. Singlewomen in the European Past, 1250-1800. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 2.  18  to be never-married. In contrast, I will use the more general term ‘single’ as a broader category, to encompass the shared conditions and experiences of never-married women at a particular point in time, or to discuss singleness as an ideological phenomenon that impacted the lives of ever-single women as well as those who might eventually marry. A look at the literature demonstrates that women have long advocated female autonomy from marriage, both inside and outside institutional settings.49 Historians of medieval and early modern Europe have led the field in studying the varied economic and social conditions of singleness.50 Using the contemporary term ‘singlewomen’ as offering the sense of a title as well as a category, Bennett and Froide make the valuable point that “Living in a patriarchal culture that praised wives, honored widows, and often ignored or maligned singlewomen, many Europeans between 1250 and 1800 were nevertheless surrounded by large numbers of adult women who had not married.”51 The sheer press of women who advocated the single life or could not marry created a social crisis from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century in particular, especially in Italy and England – a demographic precursor to that of the mid-nineteenth century’s ‘superfluous women.’52 Many of the social and economic conditions faced by the early modern ‘singlewoman’ were shared by the Victorian ‘spinster.’ One important example is the legal and economic category of femme sole which allowed single, adult English women the ability to contract and conduct business in their own name, a right denied married women until the late nineteenth century in Britain and Canada.53 49  See Christine de Pisan, The Book of the City of Ladies [1405], E. Richards, trans. (New York: Persea Books, 1982); Moderata Fonte (Modesta da Pozzo), The Worth of Women: Wherein is Clearly Revealed their Nobility and their Superiority to Men [1600]. V.Cox (ed. and trans.) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). 50 Amy Erickson does this in her study of women and property in early modern England, allowing her to make some important insights into the lives of widows especially: Amy L Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993), 196-7. For a premier collection of studies on ‘singlewomen’ see Bennett and Froide, Singlewomen in the European past, 1250-1800 (1999). Good general studies of the period that take single women into account include: Margaret L. King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Merry Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986) and Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). There is also an excellent and growing body of research on women living in a variety of communities and ‘enclosures’ in the medieval and early modern periods: see Sherrill Cohen, The Evolution of Women’s Asylums Since 1500 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). 51 Bennett and Froide, “A Singular Past,” 27. 52 See Virginia Cox, “The Single Self: Feminist Thought and the Marriage Market in Early Modern Venice” Renaissance Quarterly 48/3 (Autumn 1995): 513-81. 53 For single women in paid labour in early modern Europe, see Bennett and Froide, Singlewomen in the European Past; Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany; Ruth Mazo Karras, Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Amy Louise Erickson, Gender and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993).  19  Bennett and Froide assert “there is much more to the history of singlewomen than merely ‘filling in’ an ignored subject.” Their discussion of the profound effects the study of single women can have on the field as a whole is worth recounting in detail here: By looking at the lives of singlewomen in premodern Europe, we will learn more about women, gender, and society in premodern Europe. We will uncover more differences – and similarities – among women. We will better understand how women – single, as well as married or widowed – forged familial and social relations with other women. We will more thoroughly reconstruct the social contexts and beginnings of feminist ideas and advocacy. And we will decenter the conjugal family as the essential familial unit of the European past – seeing European society not as it ideally was, but instead as it really existed. […] By studying the lives of these women – lifecycle singlewomen as well as life-long singlewomen – we will construct a more complete and complex picture of the European past.54  In turn, picking up the study of single women in the late Victorian period and into the twentieth century, we will also see a more complex picture of Canadian history. We can learn more about the intersections between women, gender, and society, uncovering differences in women’s experiences hidden by a lack of attention to marital status. By setting the heterosexual dyad aside, we can delve more fully into the varied life-sustaining relationships that women forged, especially with other women. We can more thoroughly reconstruct the social contexts of feminist ideas and feminist movement, and the roots of a female citizenship based on a direct rather than deflected relationship to the nation. We can also trace the nascence of an ‘individual’ female subjectivity based in self-reverence rather than selfeffacement. And we can decentre the conjugal family, especially the heterosexual dyad, as the essential unit of the Canadian past and the only legitimate site for women’s sexuality. Ultimately, the aim to create a reconstruction of Canadian society “not as it ideally was, but instead as it really existed” is an ever-elusive goal, but we can certainly strive to forge “a more complete and complex picture” of that past.  Contexts for the single woman in Canadian history and historiography Although the number of studies that take single women as a focus are as yet comparatively few, several key monographs have focused on some aspect of single women’s 54  Bennett and Froide, “A Singular Past,” 27.  20  experiences in Canada, Britain, Australia, and the United States. Important work has been done around the social construction of the ‘spinster’ in the UK and US.55 Other studies look at the survival strategies of single women facing the perils of self-support, such as Joanne Meyerowitz for Chicago (Women Adrift, 1988), and Martha Vicinus’ study of single women’s residential communities and social networks in Britain (Independent Women, 1985).56 Several studies have built on James Hammerton’s Emigrant Gentlewomen (1979), examining single women’s emigration from Britain to its outposts of Empire, including Canada, Australia, and South Africa.57 Carolyn Strange’s Toronto’s Girl Problem (1995) to date offers the only monograph that focuses exclusively on single women in the Canadian context, examining the phenomenon of the ‘working girl’ in Toronto’s industrial sector and the middle-class moral anxieties aroused by the spectre of legions of young, unsupervised women out in the city’s streets, partaking of its pleasures and dangers.58 Work has also been done on the opportunities and meanings of work for migrant Maritime and French-Canadian women in the US59 and the experiences of ever-single women in Prince Edward Island.60 Some biographies of single Canadian women have begun to appear: earlier work by Patricia Rooke and Rodolph Schnell on Ontario politician Charlotte Whitton has been joined recently by Jean Barman’s study on Nova  55  Ruth Freeman and Patricia Klaus, “Blessed Or Not? The New Spinster In England And The United States In The Late Nineteenth And Early Twentieth Centuries,” Journal of Family History 9/4 (1984): 394-414; Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies; Doan, Old Maids to Radical Spinsters. 56 Joanne Meyerowitz, Women Adrift: Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Martha Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women, 18501920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985). 57 A. James Hammerton, Emigrant Gentlewomen: Genteel Poverty and Female Emigration, 1830-1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1979); Adele Perry, On The Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849-1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); Jan Gothard, Blue China: Single Female Migration to Colonial Australia (Carlton South: Melbourne University Press, 2001); Cecillie Swaisland, Servants And Gentlewomen to the Golden Land: The Emigration of Single Women from Britain to Southern Africa, 1820-1939 (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1993). 58 Carolyn Strange, Toronto’s Girl Problem: The Perils and Pleasures of the City, 1880-1930 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995). 59 Betsey Beattie, Obligation and Opportunity: Single, Maritime Women in Boston, 1870-1930 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000); Yukari Takai, “Shared Earnings, Unequal Responsibilities: Single French-Canadian Wage-Earning Women in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1900-1920,” Labour/Le Travail 47 (2001): 115-32. 60 Michele Stairs, “Matthews and Marillas: Bachelors and Spinsters in Prince Edward Island in 1881” in Nancy Christie and Michael Gauvreau, eds. Mapping the Margins: The Family and Social Discipline in Canada, 17001975 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004): 247-67.  21  Scotian teacher Jessie McQueen and by Margaret Prang on Caroline Macdonald, missionary to Japan.61 However, the meaning of the category ‘single’ is seldom fully explored in these studies, nor has the ever-single woman been a consistent focus outside the biographies. Some, like Strange’s Toronto’s Girl Problem, concentrate on one life-cycle stage of one particular group – young single women seeking urban employment, housing, and leisure. Many ever-single women were probably captured in her study, but tracing young women before they married, not ever-single lives, was her aim; she deliberately sought to study the ‘working girl’ as opposed to the ‘business woman’ (a clear class and age distinction) thereby cordoning off a significant category for ever-single women.62 Betsy Beattie’s recent work on single Maritime women migrants in Boston between 1870 to 1920 looks at a similar group. On the whole, Beattie’s work is not concerned with the difference between women who did not marry, and those who married at some point in their lives. She does not differentiate between the two in her data, nor does she state whether women with children, or women in marriage-like living conditions (i.e. conjugal domestic relationships with men) are included in her statistics or analysis. She also seems to assume that an eventual marriage was the destiny for her subjects.63 Vicinus’ Independent Women examines middle-class English women who “could afford to live, however poorly, on their own earnings outside heterosexual domesticity or church governance.”64 She focuses on residential institutions for these “independent women” from 1850 to 1920. Again, Vicinus’ lack of clear differentiation between women who would marry some time in their life-cycle and lifelong, ever-single women limits her study’s usefulness for discussions of ever-single lives.65 However, while both Strange and Beattie capture (or  61  Patricia Rooke and Rodolph Schnell, No Bleeding Heart: Charlotte Whitton, a Feminist on the Right (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1987); Jean Barman, Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002); Margaret Prang, A Heart At Leisure From Itself: Caroline Macdonald of Japan (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1995). 62 Strange, Toronto’s Girl Problem, 3. 63 Beattie, Obligation and Opportunity, 20. 64 Vicinus, Independent Women, 6. 65 Her later work, especially her recent Intimate Friends, goes farther in its usefulness in looking at ever-single women, but her focus is women who had same-sex relationships, regardless of their domestic and marital relationships with men over their lifetimes. Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).  22  assume) heterosexual women’s experiences, Vicinus seeks to also identify same-sex relationships in her study. Scholars searching for lesbian lives in the past (however loosely or rigidly defined) have come closest to capturing the experiences of ever-single women. Most of the work on the identities of ever-single women in particular has been done under the rubric of lesbian history. This approach has had both positive and negative results for the study of single women as a whole. Often, the emphasis on women who lived women-centred lives does leave out those women who did not live, or explain, their lives in that way. But the most valuable aspect of this body of work is the willingness to frame the experiences and thoughts of ever-single women as central, rather than peripheral or marginal to what ‘real’ women thought or did. And historians of lesbian experience have given us tools to question the monolithic and uncomplicated ‘heterosexuality’ found in many histories, as well as investigate possibilities and variants of same-sex intimate companionship and sexuality.66 The assumption that ‘all women marry’ often seems to cloud the analysis of single women, creating the situation where we undertake to study ‘single women’ but do not treat specifically the women who did not ever marry, or conversely, treat with the ‘lesbian’ as an isolated subgroup without reference to the wider allied context of single women. Historians understand that the single woman is a key figure in the history of work, education, and social and political reform before World War II.67 Yet the experiences and consciousness of singleness are too often subsumed under a general category of ‘Woman,’ for whom work and education are assumed to be preludes to marriage – thus single women’s subjectivities are assumed indistinguishable from married women’s, and singleness imparts no significant  66  See the Lesbian History Group, Not a Passing Phase: Reclaiming Lesbians in History 1840-1985 (London: Women’s Press, 1989); Trisha Franzen, Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States (New York: New York University Press, 1996); Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies; Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers and To Believe in Women. 67 For example, the history of women and paid work before WWII is predominately that of single women. There are many good studies of women’s work in this period that acknowledge this fact, though none pursues the meanings or conditions of work for ever-single women; rather, marriage is assumed and often traced for its cultural and economic impact on women’s work patterns and workplace culture. See for example Joan Sangster, Earning Respect: The Lives of Working Women in Small-town Ontario, 1920-1960 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995). Single women would continue to form the majority of female workers until the late 1950s. It wasn’t until 1959 that married women matched the numbers of single women in the workforce in Canada: single (44.33%), married (45%), and Other (divorced, widowed, abandoned) 10.66%. Table, Marital Status of Females with Jobs, 1946 to 1960, in Jeffrey Keshen and Suzanne Morton, eds. Material Memory: Documents in Post-Confederation History (Don Mills, Ont.: Addison-Wesley, 1998), 266.  23  differences needing examination.68 Assuming that a future (and by no means guaranteed) event determines the nature of single women’s attitudes and conditions in their present is a particularly anachronistic approach that might stem from our own culture’s continued assumption of women’s lesser worth outside of marriage. This is also very evocative of conditions under which historians argued for the separate study of women from men. Key here is our conception of adulthood. On the whole, we do not treat young men’s historical entry into waged work the same way – as transitory and a factor of youth, and not particularly relevant to the ‘wider’ or ‘real’ history of men – because waged work is a measure of male adulthood and citizenship, past and present. In contrast, the threshold of adulthood for women was marriage, ultimately coupled with motherhood. Young single women in school or in the workplace were liminal figures, not yet having achieved the female adult status of the wife and mother. And thus the framework for thinking about singleness is often tutelage and apprenticeship. Yet the figure of the spinster was clearly that of an adult – possibly seen as marginal in the community, but not as juvenile or in need of tutelage, as young women still eligible for marriage were perceived. In fact the spinster could be endowed with authority, as in the classic image of the maiden aunt who chaperones young nieces in fictional travel narratives such as E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View (1908) or Marilla and the various spinsters that appear in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series (1908-1939). Where the adulthood for the married woman began in marriage, or perhaps the birth of her first child, the transition for ever-single women from tutelage to authority is less easy to determine. The community sense of the end of a woman’s eligibility for marriage is key. Eligible single women were considered fundamentally incapable of self-supervision to maintain respectable status, constructed simultaneously as sexual purity and availability for heterosexual marriage. Others were responsible, chiefly fathers, for maintaining a recognized net of protections and restrictions around the young single woman’s social interactions to safeguard respectability and severely limit her expressions of sexuality.69 Crossing this 68  While it might be true that most young single women thought marriage was their future, as historians we cannot simply treat that future as a given, nor fold single women’s experiences into married women’s on the assumption that eventually, the subject of a study would marry and thus in the future take on a married woman’s subjectivity. 69 The ultimate end of young single women’s unbridled sexuality was, of course, the ‘ruin’ of her capacity for respectable marriage and motherhood in having sexual intercourse outside marriage, and the concomitant ‘fall’  24  threshold out of eligibility for marriage meant an end to tutelage and an assumption of selfresponsibility. Once having achieved this status of full responsibility, the respectable eversingle woman was less an object of surveillance or protection and more a potential agent for securing norms of femininity in the community, qualified to supervise young single women and to mould them to normative heterosexual and gendered roles. Thus a division between the eligible or ‘liminal’ single woman and the confirmed ‘spinster-citizen’ existed that is crucial to understand as we attempt to look at single women in the past. An interesting moment in Canadian political history seems to underline this division. In 1883, 1884, and 1885, Sir John A. Macdonald introduced uniform federal franchise bills that allowed for the franchise to be extended to unmarried women with property. Catherine Cleverdon notes that although the lack of any real strenuous opposition to the measures might have meant that those opposed had no real fear of their passage, she believes the Prime Minister personally saw the franchise in the hands of propertied, adult single women as both a logical extension of his vision of a universal franchise based on property, and a new conservative constituency in politics.70 This conception of the adult spinster-citizen lingered in the minds of some parliamentarians until at least the achievement of the franchise for White women in 1918. In that year Senator L.O. David moved that unmarried women under age 30 should be disenfranchised, because they should be concentrating on “preparing themselves to fulfill the duties of their noble position.”71 This rarely discussed aspect of suffrage history suggests that there existed a (small, but telling) category of women that could be conceived in terms of a broader citizenship than that accorded ‘women’ as a whole. This ‘spinster-citizen,’ however she may have been rendered invisible by the later claims by suffragists for civil rights for all (White) women, seems to be connected to the ever-single, adult woman who has achieved full personal responsibility in the eyes of the community.  into prostitution. The threat of seduction and abandonment as well as sexual violence were also real dangers the single women faced, with at best ambivalent support from the community and in particular the legal system. See Valverde, Age of Light, Soap, and Water; Karen Dubinsky, Improper Advances: Rape and Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). 70 Catherine Cleverdon, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada [1950]. 2nd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), 105-9. 71 Linda Rasmussen et al, eds. A Harvest Yet to Reap: A History of Prairie Women (Toronto: The Women’s Press, 1976), 230. Nineteen of 52 votes cast supported David.  25  But this potential position of responsibility and citizenship was precarious and mediated by a sheaf of social and economic factors, including demographics and location. Place mattered deeply for single women’s social and economic position in this period. Liminal or citizen, the single woman posed a crucial demographic and social problem in Britain: that of the ‘surplus woman.’ As of the 1851 census, there were 405,000 more women than men in the British population, and in the late Victorian period generally, one in four adult women would never marry.72 As Sheila Jeffries notes, the very idea that women could be conceived as ‘surplus’ – meaning surplus to the needs of men – was one which Victorian feminists would vigorously contest, addressing instead the economic and social conditions that made survival difficult for women outside marriage.73 But for many commentators, including some feminist organizations, the best solution to the ‘surplus woman’ was emigration. While the adult single woman was seen as a problem in Britain, as out-of-place, in the Dominion of Canada and other British possessions, single White women were in demand. Late Victorian immigration societies on both sides of the Atlantic actively promoted and facilitated the movement of single women to Canada. As early as the 1860s, pro-West boosters called for ‘surplus women’ to look to the Canadian West as a solution to the barriers they found in living single lives in Britain. Well-paid positions in domestic service and farm help were abundant, and the large pool of available Canadian bachelors was promoted as a bonus.74 Although the subject of marriage to the ubiquitous Western bachelor frequently appears in literature promoting the emigration of single women, booster Jessie Saxby explained: “I don’t want our girls to be sent out to the colonies in search of husbands. Certainly not!” Rather, if women say “‘I want to earn my own living’ they will find happy homes to receive them in Canada.” Yet Saxby also listed a “man of her own” as the ultimate good outcome of emigration, especially for the ill-used governess or clerk.75 Some emigration propaganda unabashedly played on the fears of the ‘surplus woman’ that marriage was beyond her grasp 72  Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies, 86. Jeffreys, Spinster and Her Enemies, 87. 74 Jessie M. Saxby, “Women Wanted” in S.Jackel, ed. A Flannel Shirt and Liberty: British Emigrant Gentlewomen in the Canadian West, 1880-1914 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1982), 68-9. For a perspective on the importation of women to the eastern provinces, see Barbara Roberts, “Ladies, Women and the State: Managing Female Immigration, 1880-1920” in Roxana Ng, Gillian Walker, and Jacob Muller, eds. Community Organization and the Canadian State (Toronto: Garamond Press, 1990). 75 Saxby, “Women Wanted,” 71. 73  26  and offered the Canadian West as a solution. A less than flattering call for women to emigrate can be found on advertisements aimed at the unhappy British spinster, like this ca. 1910 postcard: URGENT! Thousands of nice girls are wanted in THE CANADIAN WEST. Over 20,000 men are sighing for what they cannot get – WIVES! Shame! Don’t hesitate – COME AT ONCE. If you cannot come, send your sisters. So great is the demand that anything in skirts stands a chance. No reasonable offer refused. They are all shy but willing. All Prizes! No Blanks. In the end, the prime reasoning behind much of the emigration propaganda promoting single women’s ‘use’ to Canada was their status as wives and mothers in potentia. The ability of respectable White women to ‘civilize’ the wild bachelors of the West and sow firm roots of Empire by inculcating their children in imperial allegiance was a central theme of much emigration rhetoric.76 But always these were prospects not guarantees – because some women might not marry. From the earliest French bride ships in the seventeenth century to the English emigrants filling the immigrant society hostels of the 1920s, some proportion of the women who emigrated to Canada never married.77 As James Hammerton notes: “the rhetoric of the feminine civilizing mission continued to serve its ideological purpose despite its increasing irrelevance to the actual course of female immigration.”78 In fact, because some emigration societies, like the British Women’s Emigration Association and the Colonial Intelligence League, saw their primary practical function as placing single women in employment overseas, they helped in part to subvert imperial goals because they enabled conditions in which marriage was less of an economic necessity for some women. However, it is worth remembering that several groups of single women who emigrated to Canada did not do so for 76  Hammerton, Emigrant Gentlewomen, 189. Yves Landry, “Gender Imbalance, Les Filles Du Roi, And Choice of Spouse In New France” in Bettina Bradbury, ed. Canadian Family History: Selected Readings (Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 2000), 18; Marilyn J. Barber, “The Gentlewomen of Queen Mary’s Coronation Hostel” in Barbara K. Latham and Roberta J. Pazdro, eds. Not Just Pin Money: Selected Essays on the History of Women’s Work in British Columbia (Victoria: Camosun College, 1984), 146. 78 Hammerton, Emigrant Gentlewomen, 189. 77  27  their own ends, or experienced coercion or lack of alternatives: Chinese ‘slave girls’ and indentured servants and Japanese ‘picture brides’ in British Columbia, as well as orphaned and ‘rescued’ British girls sent as wards and domestic servants to eastern Canada by various charity agencies such as the Bernardo Homes.79 The British women who came to Canada in the long legacy of ‘bride ships’ and assisted emigration schemes were able to employ more agency in their travel, ranging from obediently fulfilling their prescribed roles by taking positions in domestic service and marrying Canadian bachelors, to using the passage to strike out on their own in businesses, farming, and other employment.80 All of this points to an essential gap that was created between imperial ideology and the utility of emigration for the actual women who went. Canada required and authorized single women to join the nation; although they were called upon to be true ‘Women’ (meaning wife/mother) this invitation enabled other agendas, identities, and futures.  Singleness on the borderlands It is these agendas, identities, and futures that are so intriguing. In the face of (apparently) every incentive to marry, how and why did women remain ever-single in the Canadian West? One approach to making sense of this diverse group of lives is to see how they intersected with both the social and physical landscape – the margins of normative social roles, and the margins of empire. Mary Louise Pratt characterizes the colonial ‘contact zone’ as a series of “social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in highly  79  Alison L.Prentice, Canadian Women: A History, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1996), 121. For Chinese women imported to BC as ‘slave girls’ and teahouse waitresses, see Tamara Adilman, “A Preliminary Sketch of Chinese Women and Work in British Columbia 1858-1950” in Barbara K. Latham and Roberta J. Pazdro, eds. Not Just Pin Money (Victoria: Camosun College, 1984), 61. For Japanese picture brides see Midge Ayukawa, “Good Wives and Wise Mothers: Japanese Picture Brides in Early Twentieth-Century British Columbia” BC Studies 105-106 (1995): 103-118 and Tomoko Makabe, Picture Brides: Japanese Women in Canada (Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1995). For migrant children, see Joy Parr, Labouring Children: British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1980). 80 For a discussion of the early single female migrants in pre-Confederation British Columbia see Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 139-166.  28  asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination.”81 Lynette Russell sees these zones as spaces both physical and intellectual, which are never neutrally positioned, but are assertive, contested, and dialogic. Boundaries and frontiers are sometimes negotiated, sometimes violent and often are structured by convention and protocol that are not immediately obvious to those standing on either one side or the other.82  In a White settler nation such as Canada, the contact zones are not just between colonizer and colonized, but also between newcomers, between genders, and between the aims of Empire and the individual. In Borderlands/La Frontera (1999), Gloria Anzaldúa explores the intersections of Anglo, Chicano, Mexican, and Indian histories and cultures in the border country of the American Southwest. From this she crafts the defining features of ‘the borderlands,’ the sites of physical and social encounters between peoples and cultures. Anzaldúa defines the borderlands as an ever-shifting site of conflict and confluence, where two or more cultures intertwine in unequal relationships of colonial dominance and subjection. Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.83  More importantly, Anzaldúa is clear that the borderlands can also be cultural and psychological: The psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands and spiritual borderlands are not particular to the Southwest. In fact, the borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.84  As we will see in this study, single women occupied the intersection of many borders: physical, political, economic, and social. As a site of such intersections, British Columbia offered single women crucial opportunities for survival and success. Literally on the edge of both Canada and the British Empire, British Columbia was a borderland, first as a latecontact, mixed-race frontier in the nineteenth century, and then through its transformation 81  Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), 4. Lynette Russell, “Introduction” in Lynette Russell, ed. Colonial Frontiers: Indigenous-European Encounters in Settler Societies (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 1. 83 Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), 25. 84 Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera, 19. 82  29  into an expanding White, imperial-Canadian hegemony in the twentieth. Both the physical and the gendered borderlands of the province created particular conditions for ever-single women’s survival and success. British Columbia offered exceptional circumstances for non-Aboriginal single women in particular between Confederation and the Second World War. The province was a ‘late development’ frontier with an unusually high ratio of White men to White women. In 1881, newcomer men outnumbered newcomer women substantially – the number of women in the non-Aboriginal population was only 25.6%. The high ratio (over 2:1) of men to women in the non-Aboriginal population would continue through 1911, and would only approach parity after 1951. (European-origin people made up 79.7% of the non-Aboriginal population in 1881, 86.9% in 1901, and 91.9% in 1911).85 Given these conditions, there must have been extra-ordinary pressures on White women in BC to conform to social expectations of marriage and motherhood, and more than enough bachelors to go around. Yet the substantial numbers of single women (approx. 25-30% for women over age 15 between 1881 and 1901) suggest that a large proportion of the female population were finding identities outside the marital home (and by 1901 this was a majority White population, particularly in Victoria). How can we explain the prevalence of single women in this period? Tables 1 and 2 offer a glimpse at the numbers of single women in Canada as a whole, British Columbia, and Victoria in 1881 and 1901. I have divided these into women over a base marriageable age of 15 (to capture the full cohort of single women – ‘eligible’ singles who would eventually marry together with the ever-single population) and women over age 30, to reflect the numbers that were very likely to remain ever-single (this definition will be discussed further in chapter two).  85  Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991). Table 5, British Columbia Population by Ethnic Origin, 1871-1981, 363; Table 11, British Columbia Non-Native Adult Population by Sex, 1870-1981, 369.  30  Table 1: Women, comparative Victoria, BC, and Canada, 188186 Single women as % All women Single women of all women 15 years and over Victoria 1701 551 32.4% BC 10991 3158 28.7% Canada 1293612 517476 40.0% 30 years and over Victoria 906 80 8.8% BC 6624 1263 19.1%a Canada 673081 90361 13.4% a  This group is over-represented due to poor reporting of marital status for Aboriginal women.  Table 2: Women, comparative Victoria, BC, and Canada, 190187 Single women as % All women Single women of all women 15 years and over Victoria 6102 2148 35.2% BCa 1843 447 24.3% Canadaa 84543 32110 38.0% 30 years and over Victoria 3439 405 11.8% a BC 1031 54 5.4% Canadaa 48156 7003 14.5% a  These numbers are from the Canadian Families Project, National (5%) Sample of the 1901 Census of Canada, January 2002. While the percentage of single women over age 15 for Canada is close to the figure calculated from the Historical Statistics of Canada (38.2%), the sample for BC is in fact somewhat low in comparison to published tables – only a 90.55% correlation (Canadian Families Project, User’s Guide, 10).  At first glance, the demographic comparison between country, province, and city presents a straightforward picture of the result of a low population of ‘eligible’ women – the percentage of single women in the province is consistently lower than Canada as a whole, regardless of age group or year.88 Yet the question should be not why BC’s numbers are so 86  Source: 1881Census of Vancouver Island, viHistory Project (; 1881 Canadian Census, Version 2003-01-28, 1881 Canadian Census Project, Département de Démography/CIED, Université de Montréal (; Historical Statistics of Canada, 2nd ed. [1983] (online). Statistics Canada, 1999. []. Series A110-124. Population, by marital status and sex, census dates, 1871 to 1976. 87 Source: Historical Statistics of Canada, 2nd ed. (online). Series A110-124. Population, by marital status and sex, census dates, 1871 to 1976; 1901 Census of Canada database at the viHistory Project (; 1901 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada, 88 With the exception of singles over 30 in BC in 1881 (19.1%) – a problematic number, since aboriginal women were clearly not adequately polled as to their marital status, possibly from enumerators’ assumptions about the legitimacy of Aboriginal marriages.  31  low compared to other provinces, but why in fact they are so high given the overwhelming male to female ratio (and strong colonial imperatives to marry). In addition, a closer look reveals a fascinating set of circumstances – between 1881 and 1901, the percentage of single women over 30 in Victoria grows by about 3%, three times the growth of Canada as a whole. Yet the percentage in BC decreases – thus Victoria in 1901 has over 10% more single women over age 15 and more than twice the percentage of single women aged 30 than British Columbia as a whole. In Victoria the numbers of single women were growing. Here I want to make some key speculations about why there were proportionately more single women in Victoria than BC as a whole. First, this suggests that BC urban centres also benefited from the rural-to-urban migration patterns of the country as a whole.89 Also, as a site of colonial emigration (along with Vancouver after the turn of the century), Victoria benefited from the importation of single women, adding to those born to the city or migrating from other Canadian regions. Gender restrictions of late Victorian society were potentially contested and reconfigured on this frontier as on others, while notions of the necessity of White women to British hegemony also created unique circumstances for single British women.90 And perhaps most importantly, Victoria likely offered the economic and social opportunities to remain single, by choice or by circumstance. Yet at first glance British Columbia as a whole seems a less likely economic haven for single women. The province’s reliance on resource extraction and the development of singleindustry towns give it a very different economic base than Ontario or Quebec. Mostly absent before WWI was the enormous manufacturing sector that employed so many single women in industrial centres like Toronto.91 Robert A.J. McDonald notes: B.C.’s comparative disadvantage as a location for end product manufacturing – the result of a remote location, small population, and discriminatory Canadian tariff and freight rate policies – particularly affected Vancouver, where such industrial activity 89  Prentice et al., Canadian Women, 113. Sylvia van Kirk and Jean Barman discuss the loosening of some restrictions for women in rural BC towns, especially in taking up businesses and other public roles, an effect of the low numbers of single women and the looser social structure of the frontier – whether this pertained in Victoria, and for how long, is a topic for further study. Sylvia Van Kirk, “A Vital Presence: Women in the Cariboo Gold Rush, 1862-1875” in Gillian Creese and Veronica Strong-Boag, eds. British Columbia Reconsidered: Essays on Women (Vancouver: Press Gang, 1992); Barman, Sojourning Sisters. And notions of the high social value of maintaining the respectability of British women prompted colonial-era Victoria to offer rare civic aid to women like the mentally ill Mills sisters (that they would be less likely to have received in eastern Canada). Perry, On The Edge of Empire, 188-90. 91 For the growing economic opportunities for women in Toronto in this period, see Strange, Toronto’s Girl Problem. 90  32  would have centred. Consequently, clothing, textile, tobacco and food processing industries, which employed large numbers of women in eastern cities and a growing number in Winnipeg, offered limited job opportunities for women on the west coast.92  However, other opportunities in the growing urban service sector, in education, and domestic service (which continued to employ many single women into the interwar period) gave many women the means to support themselves in Victoria and Vancouver. As McDonald notes for Vancouver between the 1890s and World War I: “The city’s growing population also required a greater variety of retail, manufacturing, and professional services. The market for services encouraged the expansion and diversification of the city’s upper and middle classes” – both exemplary opportunities for women’s employment, and the means for daughters of middle-class entrepreneurs to remain single.93 And up until at least the Great War, wages in some traditional female occupations were higher in British Columbia than eastern Canada, which may have acted as an enticement to come to the province. Not only were positions in teaching and domestic service plentiful through this settlement era, they paid better as well. In 1887 Jessie McQueen found the 60.00 per month wage in a rural BC school a great improvement over the 60.00 per term wage she could get in a Nova Scotia school, enabling her not only to live away from her family but also to send money home.94 And wages were higher for domestics in BC than in the East, with the demand most often exceeding the supply, especially in Vancouver’s boom years and with the rise of other employment opportunities for women in the professional and service sectors after the turn of the century. As most domestics had room and board included as part of their employment, the difference in wage rates meant a real difference in net earning power.95 These interesting, even unique demographic and economic contexts in British Columbia situate this project. But what is more exciting is the wealth of statistical and archival data that 92  In 1911, women comprised only 9.6% of Vancouver’s manufacturing workforce, as opposed to 17.2% for Winnipeg and 25.5% for Toronto. Robert A. J. McDonald, “Working Class Vancouver, 1886-1914: Urbanism and Class in British Columbia” BC Studies 69-70 (1986), 42. 93 Robert A. J. McDonald, Making Vancouver: Class, Status, and Social Boundaries, 1863-1913 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1996), 120. The Gilley family of New Westminster was a typical example of the Vancouver area’s boom economy enabling a set of entrepreneurial brothers (making their fortunes in logging and transportation) to fund the education and support of their ever-single daughters (Janet Gilley was one of the first female solicitors in Vancouver in the 1920s). Paul Gilley, personal communication, December 2002. 94 Barman, Sojourning Sisters, 130. 95 Robin John Anderson, “Domestic Service: The YWCA and Women’s Employment Agencies in Vancouver, 1898-1915,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 25/50 (1992), 310.  33  enabled me to construct the three major datasets (demographic, associational, and autobiographical) that fund the study. Through these, I explore both the historical, material context of ever-single women’s lives and the meanings ever-single women made of their experiences. In essence, each chapter is its own satellite study, focusing on a particular dataset and particular issues in the material conditions and subjectivities of ever-single women. Each allows me to generate new methods and/or theory for the study of single women generally, as well as significant conclusions for my particular aim, the history of ever-single women in BC. The women in this study are ‘everyday’ because the single woman was a visible, normal part of everyday life in Canada in this period. But they’re also Athenas because their experiences and identities are evocative of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, the only major goddess in the classical Greek pantheon to have no predetermined sexuality and marital status, and whose traits were those usually coded ‘masculine’ (and certainly ‘public’) – intellect and warfare. To be included in the study, a subject must have spent a portion of her adult life in British Columbia. Because of the high mobility of many single women in this period, and given the province’s late-settlement nature, many subjects will not have been born in BC. I do not include women who are mothers, as that adds a complex and unique social and economic dimension that is beyond the scope of this study. Mothers occupied a distinct social category and were the centre of an immense ideological structure. Mothers who were not married (both ‘single mothers’ and widows) existed in an intricate web of ideas of moral and social worth that differed (though not completely) from women without children (although I have retained one woman in my study who had apparently adopted an older child in her middle age). My purpose in this study is to examine the experiences of women who did not participate in the traditional identity of wife and mother.96 In the same vein, my subjects must not be in a dependent, sexual domestic relationship with a man. However, the possibility of intimate relationships with other women, including sexual and conjugal, will be explored. Unfortunately, beyond some inclusion in the census sample used 96  However, they did need to live as women. Although the ‘passing woman’ – a woman who passed as a man – is an intriguing historical subject with much to offer about contexts of gender and sexuality, s/he is outside the scope of my study, which is focussed on women who lived as (single) women and faced the specific barriers and opportunities for those recognized as such. For similar reasons, the transsexual subject, which also deserves study, is not part of my framework. See Laura Doan’s interesting discussion on the passing woman in Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 82-94.  34  in chapter two, nuns and other religious women who live in community – notably, the order of the Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria – are also excluded, but the interconnections between the secular and the religious ever-single woman is another needed and intriguing area of study.97 Because of the nature of the available sources, the majority of subjects in this study are women of Anglo-European descent from the urban centres of Victoria and Vancouver. Most of the available archival, statistical, and media resources concern this group, supplemented by some illustrative examples of rural single women from the Abbotsford-Sumas-Matsqui area. However, I have aimed to glean from the partial and racialized nature of the historical sources some sense of the distinct differences in experience for women of Aboriginal descent and women of colour. Census records and some archival deposits by or about single women of colour were found, which allowed me to make some comments on their experiences in this study, a valuable discovery. There are many opportunities and barriers to studying single women, and when possible, I highlight the methods I have developed and the issues I have confronted in order to facilitate further studies of single women in other regions and eras of study. I have also compiled a Methods appendix that allows a more detailed discussion of methods than would be appropriate for the body of the text. This study does not claim to be an exhaustive look at ever-single women in the BC context. Rather, I will investigate four major themes: survival, status, relationships, and identity. A full sample of the 1901 census for the city of Victoria forms the empirical core for the demographic section of the study concentrating on material conditions of income and household composition, offering us some of the strategies of survival single women employed. Vancouver’s social and city directories as well as police records offered excellent material for a complementary associational study of ever-single women’s social status networks. And the voices and experiences of ever-single women from Victoria and Vancouver, based chiefly on archival deposits of autobiographical materials and biographical studies, form the other core dataset on relationships and identities.  97  Unfortunately, the St. Ann’s archives were closed for residential schools litigation while I was doing the research for this study; for more on the order, see Jacqueline Gresko, “Gender and Mission: The Founding Generations of the Sisters of St. Ann and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in British Columbia 1858-1914” PhD diss., University of British Columbia, 1999.  35  Chapter two, ‘Conditions of singleness,’ examines the empirical conditions of singleness, focusing on the urban single woman in Victoria. The ‘Athenas sample’ of single women in Victoria in 1901 that I have compiled for this project reveals very interesting data about numbers, occupations, and incomes of single women over age 30 (my line for determining those women most likely to remain ever-single). Due to the rich weave of race, ‘colour,’ and birthplace information in this census, I have assembled good profiles of women of colour. The highlight of this chapter is undoubtedly the household analysis I was able to perform with the cross-indexing of the manuscript census, city directories, and obituaries. Household-level analysis, coupled with information on incomes and occupations, tells us much more about strategies of survival for single women than the individual records of single women taken in isolation. Some preliminary thoughts are also offered on the construction of class for ever-single women, keeping in mind the vital interrelation of economic class and social status. As a complement to the study of Victoria up to 1901 in chapter two, chapter three (‘Making it in Vancouver: Respectability, status, and the single woman’) focuses on Vancouver after 1901, the year in which the booming new city surpassed the older capital in population, on its way to becoming the economic and social hub of British Columbia. In this chapter, I turn from an examination of material conditions to questions of status. Looking at two status groups in Vancouver – those of the lowest status (prostitutes), and the highest status (‘Society’ women) – reveals interesting conditions, even contradictions, in how single women might negotiate the status hierarchy in a growing urban centre. Most significantly, this chapter emphasizes the centrality of single women to (all levels of) society and the leadership that single women bring to both crafting and policing the borders of status groups. Chapter four (‘Emotional geographies’) focuses on two key elements: ever-single women’s own voices on singleness, and the vital relationships they built for themselves. The Farmer’s Advocate quote at the beginning of this chapter offers a myriad of circumstances that shaped the lives of ever-single women. Yet the quote is missing a critical category: women who made the choice to be single. Ever-single women’s own reasons for being single will be examined in chapter four, demonstrating that women made rational choices about their own lives – and the conditions of marriage and singleness in their times. Far from being ‘alone,’ kin and personal relationships were very important to most single women. Many  36  women lived within family structures, with parents or siblings, and others lived in clusters with friends, workmates, and partners. And the range of relationships that these women built, from the homosocial to the homoerotic, deserves close examination. In chapter five, ‘Eccentric Subjects,’ the voices of ever-single women will be examined not just for collective patterns and details about their experiences as single, but also for the very ways they speak of their lives. I open this chapter with a discussion of the nature of the ever-single woman as ‘outside heterosexuality’ and suggest some ways through the bind of the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy in thinking about women’s lives. I then propose that ever-single women could have a particular ‘voice’ that was profoundly influenced by their position on the borderlands of gender: taking on many aspects deemed appropriate for men, such as lifelong employment and self-support, yet experiencing the impacts of gender regimes that insisted upon female ‘difference,’ deference, and subordination. My theory of the hybrid nature of this autobiographical voice is the key contribution of this chapter. Throughout the study, I aim to demonstrate the impact of marital status as a category of analysis, and what the study of the (ever-)single woman offers to our understandings of history. An important place to begin is to examine the conditions that defined single women’s choices and chances for survival, outside the economic support of (and dependence upon) a husband. In the next chapter, I will examine just what might have been the conditions and strategies of survival for single women in Victoria in 1901, looking at what occupations they might have had (if any), incomes, and most importantly, the structures of their households and how those might contribute to their survival or even prosperity.  37  Two: Conditions of singleness Fate had nailed me down hard. […] No, I was not nailed. I was screwed into the house of All Sorts, twist by twist. Every circumstance, financial, public, personal, artistic, had taken a hand in that cruel twirling of the driver. Each twist demanded – “Forget you ever wanted to be an artist. […] Buckle down to being a landlady.” – Emily Carr, House of All Sorts, 202  Economic circumstances deeply structured single women’s choices – and compromises – to ensure survival. This chapter offers an analysis of the material circumstances that conditioned single women’s strategies of survival and success on the borderlands that was Canada’s most western province. The very productive intersection of the manuscript census, city directories, obituaries, cemetery records, and vital statistics has allowed me to build a rich dataset on a cohort of individual single women. This dataset reveals some of the strategies of survival adopted by single women, from the types of occupations that provided a living wage, to (more significantly) the variety of living arrangements that allowed their incomes to stretch over expenses, to support kin, or in some cases to support their own autonomous lifestyles. Also revealed are fundamental connections between race and class. Possibly the most important aspect of this branch of the research is my focus on householdlevel analysis. As I mined the manuscript census for single women, it became clear to me that we need to look at single women’s lives as they were embedded in structures of family and living arrangements, rather than simply comparing single women in terms of occupation or income, or some other factor that treats single women as if they were, at all times, living completely alone. What we will see, however, is that single women most often did not live alone, and that we need to move beyond a simple independent (alone) versus dependent (at home) paradigm. This chapter will focus on the urban single woman, exploring a full sample of single women in Victoria drawn from the 1901 Census of Canada – a census year in which the growth of Victoria’s single female population outstripped BC and Canada as a whole, making it an interesting site for analysis of single women’s lives. Because my analysis draws mainly from group data on single women in particular moments in time, a major portion of the discussion will concentrate on the wider group of women who can be identified as single  38  at that moment. Then I will move on to supplement this with a supporting discussion about the confirmed ever-single women that can be found within this data. Finally, I will return to the wider category of single women, and offer some preliminary thoughts about class and how we might determine the class identities of single women.  Importing single newcomer women As early as the 1860s, the single Anglo-Saxon woman was a desired emigrant to this far outpost of Empire, an indispensable player in the aim to replace the Aboriginal population with a replica of White, British society. As early as 1869 the British Columbian presented emigration to the colony as an excellent solution to the “redundancy of women,” and single British women were actively recruited to come to British Columbia as part of the defence and re-creation of British cultural norms in Canada.1 As Adele Perry notes, “White women were necessary ingredients in the reconstruction of the colonial order, but as lesser partners.”2 Perry outlines a threefold strategy of immigration policy. The presence of White women would induce White men “to reject the rough homosocial culture of the backwoods in favour of normative standards of masculinity and respectability.” Secondly, White women coming as servants for middle-class and elite homes would “simultaneously address the local labour market and relieve overpopulation in Britain.” And third, White women would combat the “other central ‘problem’ of British Columbia’s gender organization, namely, the widespread practice of white-Aboriginal conjugal relationships.”3 The internal migration of women from rural to urban areas throughout Canada was also a marked feature of the period between the mid-nineteenth century and the Second World War.4 In addition to the women recruited for the province by service organizations in Britain, single women of non-Aboriginal (and mixed-blood) descent were born to the province as legacy of the first waves of European settlement, while others traveled to the province as individual opportunists seeking livelihoods and adventure. Many newcomer women who were destined to stay ever-single would have come as girls with their families to take up 1  Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 144. Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 130. 3 Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 140-2. 4 Mobility between urban centres was also particularly was high. The increase in urban populations after the mid-century point averaged 34% per decade, while roughly 50-70% of urban residents in a given decade could not be traced in the next census a decade later. Prentice, Canadian Women, 121. 2  39  farms in British Columbia, or residence in the new cities of Victoria and New Westminster (and later Vancouver), and many also were born to the increasing numbers of immigrant families since stable newcomer settlement was established in the 1860s. And many adult women came to BC seeking survival and success, coming on their own initiative and funds, or utilizing the various sponsored-emigration schemes run by British emigration societies, from the ‘brideships’ of 1861-63 to the employment and hostelling programs of the interwar period.5 Single newcomer women also travelled to British Columbia as early as the 1860s to find a livelihood, though not necessarily as traditional rural settlers. The women Sylvia Van Kirk studied in the Cariboo gold rush in the 1860s and 1870s ran boarding houses, laundries, restaurants, and saloons, building a much-needed service industry around the great numbers of unpartnered male miners who “now had to pay for services that they would normally have expected to be provided free by female kin.”6 There were also opportunities for traveling entertainers, especially with the lucrative hurdy-gurdy troupes, who were dance partners for miners in the saloons at a dollar-a-dance. The sex trade also offered opportunities – although Van Kirk does not find a discernable White sex trade, there was evidence of Aboriginal and Chinese women working as organized or casual prostitutes.7 By the turn of the 20th century the expansion and intensification of in-migration to British Columbia brought new opportunities for many single women, in business, trade, the service industry, and the professions.  Tracing the urban single woman: Victoria 1901 Whether they were from overseas, rural areas, or the eastern provinces, single women migrated to BC’s urban centres in search of survival and success, part of the pan-Canadian migration of women from rural to urban centres that was a marked feature of the period between the mid-nineteenth century and the Second World War.8 Although the young city of 5  Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 154-6. Barber, “Gentlewomen of the QMCH.” Van Kirk, “A Vital Presence,” 27. Of 75 white women in her study, 61 could be identified as married, leaving 14 or 18.7% (possibly) single. 7 Van Kirk, “A Vital Presence,” 31-3. 8 Mobility between urban centres was also particularly was high. The increase in urban populations after the mid-century point averaged 34% per decade, while roughly 50-70% of urban residents in a given decade could not be traced in the next census a decade later. Prentice, Canadian Women, 121. 6  40  Vancouver would surpass all other centres in growth by the turn of the century, the years 1881 to 1901 saw the maturing capital city of Victoria drawing many single women to its environs, and in 1901 surpassing both British Columbia and Canada as a whole in the growth of its population of single women. My core sample of single women in Victoria in 1901 allows me to trace the economic conditions of the urban single woman, teasing out the various factors, including occupation and income, which enabled this population to survive. From this base, I then cross-reference the data through household composition and race to further construct both the many barriers and strategies of survival for single women. And finally, I am able to advance beyond the census to focus on the group of confirmed ever-single women whose obituaries can be traced, giving us a glimpse of diverse additional strategies of survival and how these might have changed over time. The most important question in front of me when I set out to form a statistical sample of single women was: what age constitutes the line between the ‘eligible’ single woman and the ‘confirmed’ spinster? This issue is vital for two reasons: because of the ideological split between the ‘eligible’ or ‘liminal’ single woman and the ‘adult’ spinster outlined in chapter one, it is important to define just where the line between ‘eligible young woman’ and ‘spinster’ was, to determine which women in the population would be seen (and see themselves) not as liminal but as (relatively) autonomous. This age division should also mark the age at which it is highly likely that a woman will remain ever-single. This turned out to be a matter of some debate. From the point of view of the compilers of the Statistical Year-Book of Canada (1902), in 1881, 1891, and 1901 the ‘single’ female included all females regardless of age, even infants.9 The Historical Statistics of Canada table for population by marital status and sex measures women over the age of 15, a practical division between childhood and eligibility for marriage.10 Both of these methods of measurement make it difficult to discover the actual numbers of adult single women. Even 9  See Dept. of Agriculture, Statistical Year-Book of Canada 1902 (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1903), 92. 10 The second edition (1983) of Historical Statistics of Canada (a joint publication of the Social Science Federation of Canada and Statistics Canada) is now online thanks to a StatsCan initiative to make these important tables continually available to the public in a variety of formats. All data from the original paper publication has been preserved without alteration. Historical statistics of Canada, 2nd. ed. (online). Series A110124: Population, by marital status and sex, census dates, 1871 to 1976. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1999. [].  41  more difficult is determining the numbers of ever-single women. An age cut-off is the common method used by demographers to determine the populations likely to remain nevermarried – this is most often (for reasons of fecundity) at or around age 50. For example, in her study of nuptiality in Canada between 1851 and 1891, Ellen Gee defines the 45-49 age cohort as the key for determining the level of never-marrieds in the population.11 However, because one of the methodological aims of this project is to follow, where possible, the lead of women’s experiences rather than pre-formulated frameworks, we need to look for clues in the voices of single women as well as prescriptive authorities to see just where the line between ‘eligible young woman’ and ‘spinster’ was. There seems to be compelling enough evidence to set the ‘line’ for spinsterhood for this study not at 45 or 50, like most demographic studies, but at 30. Senator David’s 1918 comment (from chapter one) that only single women over age 30 should be enfranchised suggests setting the line at this age. Some voices of single women themselves also offer support for 30 as a division. A British Columbia teacher wrote in to the women’s editor at the Family Herald and Weekly Star in 1912: “I am now 28, and the future looms ahead of me, with the sole prospect of teaching from morning til night, the rest of my days. […] It therefore appears I shall some day be shelved as an old maid.”12 Additional support was found in the average age at first marriage for women in BC: 20.0 years in 1881 and 22.3 years in 1891, rising to a high of 24.8 by 1931.13 This trend of nuptiality in the early 20s for women puts into some context the teacher’s lament that at age 28 she was already feeling like she would never marry, if the majority of young women of her community were already well established in marriage and childbearing by her age. Using age 30 as my division, I then proceeded to develop my ‘Athenas’ sample of single women recorded as single in the census of Victoria in 1901. Thanks to the efforts of historians, genealogists, and the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC), the entire manuscript census for Victoria in 1901 is available in multiple online formats.14 Individual 11  Ellen M. Thomas Gee, “Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Canada,” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 19/3 (1982), 314. 12 ‘Penelope’ (British Columbia) in Prim Rose at Home, Family Herald and Weekly Star October 30, 1912. Rpt. in Lewis, ed., Dear Editor and Friends, 100. 13 Gee, “Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Canada,” 320; Barman, West Beyond the West, Table 12, Average Age of First Marriage in Selected Canadian Provinces, 1891-1981, 370. 14 viHistory (, a project of historians at Malaspina University College and the University of Victoria offer an online, searchable database of census, city directories, and other records covering Vancouver  42  entries are also linked to their households, which as will be seen facilitates an important element of my analysis. For heads of household, the Schedule 2 (property) pages were available to be cross-referenced for size and type of dwelling and amount of property owned and leased, and address cross-referencing was also a valuable tool. As well, all women in the sample have been searched in the BC Archives online vital statistics database (birth, marriage, and death certificates). From this excellent set of research resources, I built a full sample of unmarried women 30 years and older, with a total of 405 entries. This ‘Athenas sample’ contains a complete breakdown of all fields from the census, including occupation, earnings, relationship to head of household, ‘colour,’ country of origin, and religion. An important element of my sample structure is that I not only recorded individuals’ information, but also the names, relationship to head, occupations, and incomes of the entire household. This availability of comprehensive, linked data allows a detailed examination of the varying strategies of survival and success pursued by single women in this frontier city in 1901. The Athenas sample gives a detailed snapshot of single women in 1901, but the census cannot identify which of those women would remain single all their lives. This particular task necessitated tapping other sources including death certificates, the BC GenWeb annotations of the census, and the online death notices index at the City of Victoria Archives site. The results are encouraging. I am able to confirm marital status at death for approximately 207 of 405 entries – roughly one-half – in the Athenas sample, with most of them (175) confirmed as ever-single and 32 confirmed as married post-census. This also supports my choice of age 30 as a reasonable dividing line for demographic as well as social reasons.  Island and Victoria for 1881-1901. The excellent BC GenWeb site ( includes a text version of the 1901 census indexed by name and page, with many records containing annotations based on obituaries, cemetery records, and personal information supplied by volunteers. The LAC, through its service, also provides the 1901 census online in its entirety as digitized versions of each page ( All individual records from the 1901 census cited here will refer to the census year (abbreviated by ‘CC’), district, subdistrict, page, and line from the manuscript census although all three databases have been consulted and cross-checked for each (i.e. CC 1901 Victoria, D9/03/44 Rhodes, Emily).  43  Between 1881 and 1901 in Victoria a growing proportion of its female population over 30 years were single. In 1901, 405 women or 11.8% of the population of women in Victoria reported themselves as ‘single.’15 Table 3: Women over 30, Victoria, 1881-190116 All women Single women 1881 906 80 1891 2105 206 1901 3439 405  % 8.8% 9.8% 11.8%  Approximately half (200) reported holding one of 47 occupations, including a status that implies they had at one time laboured for wages such as ‘Retired,’ or had some kind of independent means, such as ‘On Income.’ The other half, or 205 had ‘None,’ “Not given,’ ‘Illegible,’ and ‘Unknown’ (blank) in their occupation field. Table 4: Reporting of occupations by women in Athenas sample Some occupation listed  193  47.7%  Retired/independent means None/unknown  7 205 405  1.7% 50.6% 100.00%  These two groups – those with given occupations/means and those without – form the main division between the women in this sample. However, this seemingly simple distinction in the census does not produce a simple binary pair of identities for single women: economically dependent women in the family, and independent, self-supporting working women. Instead there was a range of identities that included both of these but also women who adopted a variety of other strategies of survival, including taking lodgings and clustering with female kin and friends. Even discerning the relationship of women to paid labour from the ‘occupation’ category is problematic, as can be seen in the shape of occupation and income reporting in the census. Information about occupation, income, months worked, or type of work is very often simply missing for women in the 1901 census (as opposed to men, the majority of whom show data  15  The four records excised from the count include 3 out of town guests included in the census and one woman whose ‘relationship to head’ is ‘wife’ but is recorded as single in the ‘marital status’ column, an issue in the original manuscript. 16  Source: 1891, 1891, and 1901 Census of Canada databases, Victoria, viHistory database (  44  in these fields17), part of the systematic under-enumeration and under-representation of women’s work noted by many historians using censuses in their work.18 Given the relatively high proportion of the sample subjects that report an income but did not record an occupation (or vice versa) – 55 or 13.7% – it is difficult to make any firm claims about the lack of paid work or independent income for individual women who do not have either income or occupation explicitly reported. (The 20 women who report no income but live in lodgings also indicate a trend of hidden incomes). Fifty-four women (22%) – all reporting ‘unknown,’ ‘none,’ or ‘retired’ as their occupation19 – also reported they lived on their ‘own means’ and five noted ‘retired’ in the ‘Employment’ column, designed to indicate the relation of the respondent to their employment (employer/employee, self-employed, etc). Traditional female gender roles such as domestic care in the home – not seen as an occupational category – can account for some of this discrepancy, but the census-takers actually had a lot of opportunities to describe employment. There is a column for living on ‘Own Account’ (indicating self-employment in business or farming) as well as columns for being an employer or employee, performing work in a factory/trade outside the home, and work at a trade inside the home. Living on ‘Own Means’ was an acceptable occupation type as well. The census was thus surprisingly flexible enough to accommodate most roles women had – including women who primarily gave care but who did some form of paid labour – so we might reasonably interpret the failure to report this information as an indicator of the expectations of census takers (and reporting heads of households, or simply whomever answered the door to census takers) that women had no economic roles, as well as a possible reticence of women to report such. We need to keep in mind that female socio-economic dependence on the family was a common and acceptable ‘economic’ role for single women, and the maintenance of middle-class status may have prompted some respondents to not declare an occupation or income, to shore up an image of the successful male breadwinner. 17  Of 1852 single men at or over age 30 in the 1901 Victoria census, only 95 or 5.13% reported ‘none’ or ‘unknown’ for occupation – with only one reporting independent means (‘on income’) and none ‘retired.’ 1901 Census of Canada database, Victoria, viHistory Project, (, single males >=30 years. The counts were: 75 ‘unknown,’ 3 ‘none,’ 13 ‘not given,’ 3 ‘illegible,’ 1 ‘on income,’ and 0 ‘retired.’ (Note counts were corrected for database errors, which included 2 women.) 18 Kris Inwood and Richard Reid, “Gender and Occupational Identity in a Canadian Census” Historical Methods 34/2 (Spring 2001), 58. 19 Except for the curious exception of one housekeeper: Isabella McMillan [252] who lived with her brother and possibly was giving an account of her role inside that household rather than an occupation outside of it. CC 1901, Victoria, D10/09/27 McMillan, Isabella.  45  Women who lived within their birth family home were likely to have little economic information provided – making it difficult to determine if such information had simply not been provided, or that they were indeed totally supported by their families. Women living with their widowed mothers, however, are more likely to report at least an occupation if no other details.20 Of course, many single women did not have formal occupations, and depended on their families, kin, or other means for their support. The nature of this dependence was heavily related to the class and the economic means of their families as a whole. The fortunes made by the founding families of Victoria in business, resource extraction and land development gave them a prominent place in colonial and provincial politics and ascendancy in the social hierarchy of the city. The daughters of the second and third generation were able to maintain their social position and financial independence without marriage. Kathleen O’Reilly, Susan and Josephine Crease, and Clara and Mildred Tyrwhitt-Drake all reported neither occupation nor income, but as daughters of some the wealthiest and most socially prominent families in Victoria, the wealth they could access and their expected lifestyles of leisure and comfort set them apart from the majority of single women living at home. To a lesser degree, women like the Carr sisters (Edith, Alice, Lizzie, and Emily) also benefited from the opportunities found by men like their father Richard Carr in trade in the new colony and city of Victoria. A trust fund paid for Emily’s art education abroad, and later in life Alice, Lizzie, and Emily lived respectable if austere single lives in homes built near each other, on small lots created from their father’s original land. For women without such class and economic advantages, it is apparent that many will have lived in very straightened circumstances, on small means with a widowed mother, or depending upon other strategies such as taking in lodgers. Although it is difficult to determine exactly the economic position of many women for whom no family incomes are given, clearly the ‘dependent’ single woman occupied a range of socio-economic positions. What about the women who do have a means and amount of income recorded? This data when coupled with household-level analysis will allow a more in-depth look at the  20  A interesting related problem is the lack of reporting of income by male heads – which helps in part to determine the class and social standing of their single adult daughters – which is missing for the most prominent of Victoria’s families, possibly from a sense of propriety on the part of census takers and/or privacy on the part of these families.  46  economic circumstances of approximately half the women in the Athenas sample, and give a productive sense of the strategies of survival employed by women through paid work and household composition. From the list of individual occupations reported by women in the sample (see Table B in Appendix), it is clear that the majority of the occupations held by single women over 30 in the 1901 Athenas sample are in traditional ‘women’s’ work – in fact, single women’s work – domestic service, teaching, nursing, retail sales, clerical work, and the needle trades.21 There are also a few surprises: a ‘machine operator’ and ‘insurance agent’ held positions traditionally coded masculine. Several women were also employers or self-employed (22 or 5.4%), chiefly dressmakers, private arts teachers, and lodging-house keepers. But the overwhelming majority were employees. The 47 individual occupations were distilled into 15 categories for easier analysis. Table 5: Occupations reported in Athenas sample, by category # Domestic/household service Nurse Needle trades (employee) Teaching Clerk retail Nun/missionary Needle trades (self-employed) Private music & art instructor Clerical/office Boarding/lodging house keeper Managerial/administrative Performer (arts) Janitorial Industrial/manual labour School matron  45 34 26 22 16 14 10 7 6 5 2 2 2 1  % 23.3% 17.6% 13.5% 11.4% 8.3% 7.3% 5.2% 3.6% 3.1% 2.6% 1.0% 1.0% 1.0% 0.5%  1 193  0.5% 100.0%  In 1901 Victoria, single/ever-single women were turning to – or mainly restricted to – traditional occupations for their strategies of survival. A comparison with women workers  21  Journalism, although a draw for educated single women after 1900, was not one of the occupations held by single women in 1901. Married women were not formally barred from the teaching profession in 1901 (as several married women reporting teaching occupations indicates) but their numbers were low and it was a common practice of local school boards to required women to resign their posts upon marriage.  47  across Canada reinforces this concentration in traditional female occupations (see full breakdown in Table C in Appendix). Table 6: Comparison: Distribution of women by leading occupational groups, Canada 1901 & Single women 30 and older, Victoria 190122  Professionala Personal service Manufacturing and mechanical Commercial and financial Clerical Other (incl. Managerial)  All women, Single women 30 Canada and older, Victoria 14.7 41.5% 42.0 25.9% 29.6 19.2% 2.4 9.3% 5.3 2.1% 6.0 2.1% 100.0 100.0%  a  Note: The inclusion of nuns in the professional category is probably not usual; however, because all of the nuns in the sample were actually performing professional occupations such as teaching and nursing, they are justifiably included here. The school matron and missionary in the sample both acted mainly as a social worker – a category otherwise absent in the sample – so are included in the professional category as well.  Here, single professional women in the sample greatly outstrip the national participation levels of women in professions, while manufacturing and personal service are lower by 10% and 16% respectively. The lower manufacturing level is not a surprise, due to BC’s economic makeup as a primary resource extraction province. The higher-end commercial and financial occupations have a high participation rate for single women, possibly a reflection of the higher wages and job stability attractive to this group of women most likely to need independent means of support; or, equally, the high numbers of women using such occupations to enable a choice of remaining single. The difference in ‘personal service’ might be explained in several ways (including the low numbers of women as percentage of total population), but more likely in the drop-out rate of younger women from domestic service. Although domestic service occupations (servant, housekeeper, cook, governess) include the highest number of women in the Athenas sample, the percentage of women over 30 in domestic service was low. As we can see from Table 5, single women 30 or older make up less than a fifth of general domestic servants and under 30% of housekeepers. Only the more responsible and autonomous positions of cook and governess reach parity, but the number is quite small in any case. Although domestic service was considered an eminently respectable female occupation and generally offered the security of room and board (and thus less need for a large income) the conditions of work, 22  Source: Prentice et al., Canadian Women, 475, table A.7: Distribution of women by leading occupational groups, 1901-1993 (percent); 1901 Athenas sample.  48  including long hours, isolation, lack of personal space, and the potential to be ‘on call’ 24 hours a day made service the least ‘independent’ of occupations and it was likely a less attractive choice as long as other options were available.23 Table 7: Proportion of single women in domestic service, 1901 Victoria  Domestic/General Servant/Housemaid Housekeeper Cook Governess  all  under 30  age 30 or over  age 30 or over as % of all single women  175 40 5 2 222  147 27 3 1 178  31 11 2 1 45  17.7% 27.5% 40.0% 50.0% 20.3%  Evidently, single women who would not marry pursued – and required – professional and/or high-paying, traditionally female jobs. It should not be a surprise that they would concentrate in teaching and nursing; in fact, because single women were the great majority in all waged work before the Second World War, and married women were actively dissuaded from taking paid occupations, we need to see these occupations as single women’s work. Thus women who chose or were compelled to be ever-single would simply keep working in them.24 The choice of an occupation that yielded security, survival, and even advancement should be seen both as an enabling condition and as a conscious strategy for the financial independence to remain ever-single. ‹ income and survival  Although wages in BC across these main sectors of women’s employment were usually higher than in eastern centres, systemic economic factors such as incomes pegged lower than a ‘living wage’ and discriminatory hiring/promotion practices could hamper the working  23  Helena Gutteridge, the Vancouver Correspondent to the Labour Gazette of 1916, named long hours and lack of leisure time as reasons why women avoided domestic work when other work was available. Department of Labour, The Labour Gazette: The Journal of the Department of Labour, vol. XVI, May, 1916, 1191. The isolation and vulnerability of domestic service also carried a high risk of sexual harassment and assault. Karen Dubinsky finds that the numbers of domestic servants assaulted by their employers in her Ontario study was ‘striking’ and accounted for over half of workplace assaults in her sample. Dubinsky, Improper Advances, 52-3. 24 Teaching was especially understood to be a single woman’s career; in 1925, 91 percent of women teachers in British Columbia were single – some 650 women. J.Donald Wilson, “Lottie Bowron and Rural Women Teachers in British Columbia, 1928-1934” in Gillian Creese and Veronica Strong-Boag, eds. British Columbia Reconsidered (Vancouver: Press Gang, 1992), 349.  49  single woman’s ability to stay independent. There was a great disparity in income earned by women in the sample, weighted toward the lower end with 121 women (29.9%) making 600.00 per year or less. Given a minimum income of 300.00 as a baseline for a single woman living alone to survive (for details on this calculation see the Methods section in the Appendix), it is possible to look at the earnings of the 1901 Athenas sample with some context. With our baseline in mind, a re-arrangement of the earnings table to reflect increments of 300.00 would look like this: Table 8: Earnings, Athenas sample # Under 300 300-599 600-899 900 or more  53 54 28 12 147  % 36.1% 36.7% 19.0% 8.2% 100.0%  The great majority of the sample had incomes that ranged from precarious to merely comfortable; only 8.2% had incomes that could be considered ‘affluent’ in terms of the baseline cost of living (three times larger). How did the set of 64 women who only just made the baseline (11 women) or less (53 women) survive? Identifying high-earning occupations would seem to be one way to determine which women had better opportunity to make ends meet and who were likely to live precariously on or under the 300.00 baseline. Yet measuring income by occupation is not so straightforward when all women in the sample are polled for incomes, rather than calculating a simple mean wage. Most of the occupations had a wide range of wages reported. For example, the teachers ranged from 155.00 to 1200.00 for an average of 676.54. Yet this does not well reflect the actual incomes reported: all were over 600.00 except for two (both under 200.00); one, Isabel Ferguson, turns out only to have worked 5 months of the year, perhaps as a substitute or other special category. If these anomalous cases are removed, the mean is raised to 718.33. Because the discrepancy was so wide in some areas, the mean is not very effective as a means of determining the economic viability of some occupations. Key individual occupations (along with all Retired/Not given/Unknowns giving incomes, for comparison) are highlighted with both mean and median in the following table to offer a clearer picture.  50  Table 9: Top 15 individual occupations reporting income plus 'Retired/Not Given/Unknown,' ranked by highest median income # in # reporting sample income Lowest Highest High school principal 1 1 1200.00 1200.00 Boarding/Lodging House Keeper 5 1 900.00 900.00 Teacher 22 14 155.00 1200.00 Milliner 5 5 480.00 1000.00 Retired/Not given/Unknown 212 8 100.00 1080.00 Stenographer 4 3 300.00 600.00 Nurse/Trained nurse 34 18 60.00 720.00 Dressmaker 23 21 200.00 1000.00 Saleswoman 4 4 300.00 500.00 Clerk (retail)a 11 11 180.00 480.00 Tailor/ess 7 7 275.00 450.00 Cook 2 2 240.00 400.00 Housekeeper 11 8 120.00 500.00 Music Teacher 6 6 120.00 900.00 Domestic/General Servantb 31 26 96.00 600.00 Caretaker/Janitor 2 2 120.00 150.00 a b  Mean Median 1200.00 1200.00 900.00 900.00 640.00 625.00 692.00 600.00 622.50 550.00 480.00 480.00 424.17 465.00 440.29 400.00 395.00 390.00 353.64 360.00 365.00 360.00 320.00 320.00 265.50 260.00 355.00 240.00 242.31 190.00 135.00 135.00  Includes all iterations of 'clerk.' Includes 'housemaid.'  We can see that some occupations had a large income spread. Some occupations, like stenographer and saleswoman, had a better lower threshold but cap out earlier, at about half the top wage of teachers, milliners, and dressmakers in the sample. And other occupations, like teachers, actually had a high wage across the board (with the exceptions noted above). Although we have only one income given for boarding/lodging House Keepers, it would seem reasonable that the number of boarders would determine income and at an average of 20.00-24.00/month25 three to four boarders could offer a high income, depending on outlay for board and expenses. If we look at the same data sorted by highest wage earned, we can get a better idea of each occupation’s potential for comfortable living. Again, a few anomalies (like the 600.00 wage – recorded as 50.00 per month – paid to domestic servant Josephine Newburger, employed at the Oriental Hotel) can skew the data somewhat, but it is possible to get a general view of how well certain occupations could support single women.  25  Schedule of Monthly Rents of House for Workingmen and Schedule Showing Rates Paid for Board and Lodging by Workingmen, November 1901. Labour Gazette, vol.II, 1902, 280-81.  51  Table 10: Top 15 individual occupations reporting income plus 'Retired/Not Given/Unknown,' ranked by highest income reported  Teacher High school principal Retired/Not given/Unknown Dressmaker Milliner Music Teacher Boarding/Lodging House Keeper Nurse/Trained nurse Domestic/General Servantb Stenographer Housekeeper Saleswoman Clerk (retail)a Tailor/ess Cook Caretaker/Janitor a b  # # in reporting sample income Lowest 22 14 155.00 1 1 1200.00 212 8 100.00 23 21 200.00 5 5 480.00 6 6 120.00 5 1 900.00 34 18 60.00 31 26 96.00 4 3 300.00 11 8 120.00 4 4 300.00 11 11 180.00 7 7 275.00 2 2 240.00 2 2 120.00  Mean Median Highest 640.00 625.00 1200.00 1200.00 1200.00 1200.00 622.50 550.00 1080.00 440.29 400.00 1000.00 692.00 600.00 1000.00 355.00 240.00 900.00 900.00 900.00 900.00 424.17 465.00 720.00 242.31 190.00 600.00 480.00 480.00 600.00 265.50 260.00 500.00 395.00 390.00 500.00 353.64 360.00 480.00 365.00 360.00 450.00 320.00 320.00 400.00 135.00 135.00 150.00  Includes all iterations of 'clerk.' Includes 'housemaid.'  We can also see that the women who report an income but no occupation fare generally well amongst the reported occupations here, indicating for some, independent means was also a viable strategy of survival open to some single women. In terms of pursuing survival or even prosperity, the incomes achieved by the women in the Athenas sample reflect the potential of some occupations to render a decent wage across the board, and others to fluctuate wildly. Even in careers such as teaching, nursing, and dressmaking, which offered a potentially high wage, some women made substantially less, making entrance to even these traditional, high-paid female occupations not a guarantee of survival for single women. Thus it is crucial to examine the strategies beyond income that women might have employed to survive. Because the 300.00 baseline used here is based on a single person’s support and maintenance, the issue of earnings and relative affluence becomes much more complex when dependents, partners, room-mates, and kin enter the equation, as they do in most households in the sample.  52  ‹ household analysis  The use of household-level analysis gives us considerable insight into the economic means of wage-earning single women, beyond a simple measure of income level. Although I have relied on the census definitions of household for the sample, I also adopt Jane Wheelock and Elizabeth Oughton’s definition of the household as a basic social unit that is not coterminous with the nuclear family, “a unit that is bounded by common agreement on the management of its resources.”26 I have split the different living situations into categories reflecting the setting: familial, place of employment, institution, and lodgings. Women who were heads of household can be further broken down based on their situation, as independent (living alone), or living with (and possibly responsible for) kin and/or unrelated women (none with unrelated men who were not boarders). It is through relation to head that we can begin to see the strategies of survival pursued by single women. Living with kin or roommates, finding affordable lodgings, or taking service in a home or institution were various means of providing shelter (and in some cases board as well) and relieving the need to provide independent housing from an often inadequate income. We also need to keep in mind that for single women living outside their birth families, living with kin (or other ‘respectable’ people) was not only a strategy of economic survival, but also of social survival. Living arrangements might also reflect ties of obligation, such as responsibility to give economic and/or care support to family members, especially aged parents. Table 11: Relationship to head of household, Athenas sample # Head of Household Living with kin Boarder or Lodger Living with employer (private home or institution) Inmate of care institution Unknown  47 225 50  % 11.6% 55.6% 12.3%  72 2 9 405  17.8% 0.5% 2.2% 100.0%  Looking at the full sample, we can see that there was a wide range of household arrangements (for a full breakdown by individual category, see Table D in Appendix). 26  Jane Wheelock and Elizabeth Oughton, “The Household as a Focus for Research” in E. Mutari and D. Figart, eds. Women and the Economy: A Reader (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), 139.  53  Although ‘living with kin’ is much larger than any of the others and is responsible for over half of all cases, it breaks down into four significant categories: daughter of head, sister of head, sister-in-law of head, and other cognates (aunt, niece, cousin). Table 12: 'Living with kin,' Athenas sample # a  Daughter of Head Sister of Head Sister-in-law of Head Cognatesb a b  131 60 20 14 225  % 58.2% 26.7% 8.9% 6.2% 100.0%  Includes adopted and step daughters. Aunt, niece, or cousin of head.  ‘Head of household’ would seem at first glance to denote independent living. Sixteen of 47 heads (34.0%) owned their own property, most often the house itself but in a few cases they owned large or multiple parcels of land and houses, supporting this image of independence. In fact, most heads lived with at least one other person, although that may have been a boarder or dependent kin. Kin relationships, especially between sisters close in age, may or may not have been that of equals. Emily Carr framed her family’s living and financial arrangements after her parents’ death as fully, even tyrannically, controlled by the eldest sister Edith, who was the head of the household in 1901.27 In some households, however, the distinction of one sibling ‘heading’ the house instead of others might be illusory. And non-kin shared arrangements were possible, such as pairs of female ‘roommates’ (or, possibly, partners) - although this was not a formal census category and can only be inferred in those reporting an ‘unknown’ relationship to head rather than ‘boarder’ (although ‘boarder’ could also conceivably mask more equal or intimate relationships). Sixty-seven of 129 daughters of head (51.9%) lived with widowed parents (one lived with her father and his second wife). Only 32 daughters reported income (24.8%). Forty-one sisters-of-heads lived in a cluster with single or widowed siblings (in 13 cases all sisters), suggesting a retention of the family unit after the death of parents, or, depending on the date of immigration, group or chain migration as a family unit. It is also likely that in some of these households, sisters came out to take a domestic role in the households of bachelor brothers (which was precisely the case with Alice and Edith Ravenhill, who in their 40s came 27  Emily Carr, Growing Pains (1946) rpt. in Doris Shadbolt, ed. The Complete Writings of Emily Carr (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1993), 308.  54  to Vancouver Island to help their brother get established on a farm before the Great War.28) Seventeen sisters lived with their siblings’ own families (spouse and children). Again, this could have reflected an arrangement of respectable and affordable housing, and/or a role of caregiver in the household, particularly with young children. Interestingly, it turns out that for all three women who lived with sisters as heads, these sisters were widowed with several adult and/or teenaged children (and one with another sister listed as married). In Emily Rhodes’ case (age: 47, occupation: ‘retired lady,’ income: 500.00), she had previously lived with her mother (she can be found in her mother’s household in 1891) and apparently joined her sisters’ household on her mother’s death.29 The other two women in this group can be found in the same respective households they occupied in 1891, and thus this was likely a circumstance of a woman coming to live with sisters with young children, in a caregiving and/or economic support role. Maria McDonald (39, not given, 1080.00) had been living with her sister and her sister’s kids since at least 1891; her sister was already a widow in 1891, with two small children.30 It is likely that McDonald’s salary, likely as a dressmaker (she was noted as such in 1891 but not 1901), was essential economic support for the household, along with the income from several boarders. The fourteen women who lived with brothers’ families can likely be grouped in two categories – those needing the support of their brothers, and those supporting brothers economically or domestically. (There is of course no reason why both could not be true in some cases.) Neither Laura Bowden (44, 240.00) nor Mary Watson (31, 225.00), both domestic servants, made a high enough income to live independently in comfort.31 Johanne Behnson (54, unknown) lived with her widowed brother and his family. Behnson immigrated in 1894, the same year that her brother’s wife died – it is likely she came out explicitly to help care for the four children, then ranging from newborn to age 15.32 Both Gertrude Woodward (30, teacher) and her sister Josephine (a 28 year old artist) lived with their  28  Alice Ravenhill, Memoirs Of An Educational Pioneer (Toronto: J.M. Dent, 1951), 170-1. CC 1901 Victoria, D9/03/44 Rhodes, Emily. 1891 Census of Canada database, Victoria, viHistory database (, Rhodes, Emily. 30 CC 1901 Victoria, D1/03/09 McDonald, Maria. 1891 Census of Canada database, Victoria, viHistory database (, McDonald, Maria. 31 CC 1901 Victoria, D20/13/17 Bowden, Laura ; CC 1901 Victoria, D19/02/29 Watson, Mary. 32 CC 1901 Victoria, D11/09/27 Behnsen, Johanne. A death certificate for ‘Lizzie Behnson’ in 1894 is likely a match for Elizabeth Behnson, her sister-in-law, which also matches the year of birth for the youngest child. 29  55  brother, his wife, and 10 children aged 1 to 16.33 Gertrude’s teacher’s salary likely fleshed out his income as a florist. The help the two sisters could give in domestic matters was likely important as well. It is not possible to determine whether Gertrude immigrated in 1898 for the better opportunities for teachers, or to help out in her brother’s household – or both. It seems clear through this analysis of household composition that interdependence is the model that we should rely on here, rather than a traditional one of independent residence based on a White middle-class, married male breadwinner experience. And this bears out when we compare single women and single men over 30. Table 13: Single people over 30, relationship to head of household, 1901 Victoria34  Head of Household Living with kin Boarder or Lodger Living with employer (private home or institution) Inmate of care institution Unknown a  Women Men # % # % 47 11.6% 353 19.1% 225 55.6% 260 14.0% 50 12.3% 458 24.7% 72 2 9 405  17.8% 175 9.5% 0.5% 16 0.9% 2.2% 550 29.7% 100.0% 1812 97.9%a  For men, two other distinct categories completes the list: [Business] Partner of head, 27 (1.5%) and Other, 12 (0.6%).  It turns out that not a great deal more men were heads of household (11.6% women, 19.1% men). And an almost comparable percentage of heads (44.7% women, 49.9% men) actually lived alone, as opposed to with kin, boarders, or other arrangements such as in an institution (a head with servants was counted as living ‘alone.’) The main difference is in the large category of ‘unknown’ for the men that seems to represent a gap in categories for census-takers. The near majority of these households are either ship’s crews or working-class men living together in groups. The lack of a clear category for either seafaring crew or ‘roommates’ seems to be reflected here.35 Only nine women are in this unknown category, several of whom could be considered a ‘roommate’ (though this is impossible to confirm). The lack of a category that does not hierarchize household members hampers our understanding of the mutuality of these relationships, and renders invisible a possible category of survival relationships for single women. 33  CC 1901, Victoria, D5/13/31 Woodward, Gertrude. Source: 1901 Census of Canada database, Victoria, viHistory Project, ( 35 This ‘unknown’ group could better be described as the core itinerant male population studied by Bob McDonald in Making Vancouver, 105-6, 224. 34  56  ‹ earnings and household composition  The dynamics of household composition reveal even more when cross-referenced to income. (See Table E in Appendix). Here we will take a closer look at the low and high ends of the earnings scale in particular. The lowest earnings category deserves special attention, because it can tell us much about how women with inadequate wages both survived, and by implication, managed to remain single. Four women with incomes under the 300.00 mark were heads of households. Lena Brandson (45, janitor, 150.00) and Charlotte Cameron (47, caretaker, 120.00) both lived alone. Strategies for survival in Brandson’s case are unknown, as she leased her small 4room house; Cameron however leased 8 acres with 2 barns or outbuildings, suggesting she farmed or kept livestock for income. The other two women in this group shared their households with ever-single sisters. Georgina Davey (47, unknown, 200.00) shared the 6room house on 200 acres she owned with sister Mary (37, unknown, no income reported), employing a Japanese servant for 180.00/year – indicating some external funds coming into the household, from rents, produce, or other sources. And Harriett Fox (41, music teacher, 120.00) lived with sister Catherine (38, teacher, 155.00) and had a boarder in the nine-room house Harriett owned, another source of income to top up their combined 275.00 per year.36 Five women in this lowest income category were boarders. Boarders would generally pay a flat fee for room and board, avoiding the expenses of maintaining a household on their own. Depending on the rate, a woman with a relatively low income could, as a boarder, have her basic needs taken care of. Mary Mitchell (30, dry goods clerk, 240.00) lived in a large boarding house where the majority of the 21 boarders who reported employment were clerks and merchants, including Maud Ellott (30, dry goods clerk, 480.00), suggesting this was a typical and respectable living arrangement that was affordable within Mitchell’s salary. It is not known how much of her 20.00 per month went to the boarding house – she may have had little left for personal items, clothing, savings, or leisure. But at double Mitchell’s salary, Ellott was probably quite comfortable if she paid a similar rate. Sixteen women in the low-income bracket lived with kin – daughters, sisters, cousins or nieces. The nine daughters-of-heads may have found themselves on some sort of spectrum 36  The 1902 city directory entry beside their address at 36 Mason Street is “St. Catherine’s Home for Old Ladies, Miss Fox, matron” – another hidden source of income? 1902 Victoria Directory, viHistory Project (  57  between not earning enough for independent support and contributing support to their parents. Ella Conlin (32, tailoress, 275.00) lived with her widowed mother, sister Catherine (unknown occupation, age 23) and brother Thomas, a policeman earning 750.00 per year. In the circumstances, her income likely merely contributed to a collective comfortable status that she would have been hard-pressed to replicate on her own. Similarly, four other women lived with one or both parents, with adult brothers and/or boarders contributing to a comfortable to large family income. Four of these women appear to have a more vital role to play in the family economy. Minnie Lakin’s (32, dressmaker) 240.00 income was likely vital to the household, with aged retired parents and a brother making only 360.00 as a teamster. Ella Nelson (31, nurse, 60.00) was the only visible means of support for her widowed mother and 28-year old sister Louise; it is possible that the notation for income here meant per month rather than year (or 520.00, within the average of nurses in the sample) but just as likely there was another external source of income, in rents or from her father’s will. Ida Roper (35, dressmaker, 240.00) is also the sole visible source of income for her aged parents (her father a retired carpenter) – interestingly, she married in 1917 after both her parents had died, hinting at daughterly support in domestic as well as economic terms. Of the five women listed as ‘sister to head,’ two appear to have lived in a dependent situation, living in their brothers’ homes with their brothers’ young families. Three could perhaps be seen to have more of a situation of shared responsibilities than dependence. Catherine Fox (38, teacher, 155.00) and Emily Woods (42, art teacher, 200.00) lived with sisters who owned property - Catherine with Harriett as mentioned above, and Emily with Lillie (49, income unknown). Josette Tolmie (31, nurse, 85.00) was part of the large Tolmie farming household on the family estate, with her five siblings. It is possible her very low salary reflects some sort of training wage, as her older sisters May and Jane show no income, perhaps indicating their role in keeping the domestic side of a farm operating. In any case, as heirs of an old Hudson’s Bay Company family (which also produced their brother, prominent Victoria doctor and later premier Simon Fraser Tolmie) and its large estate, this household would have been at least quite comfortable if not affluent. And the one woman listed with an ‘unclear’ relationship to head, Agnes Gibson (music teacher, 240.00) appears to have lived with another ever-single woman (Abbie Gardiner,  58  teacher, 800.00), possibly as a roommate or companion – both such definitions outside of the parameters of the census. Women living in an institution (as employee) or in an employer’s home only appear in earnings categories of 600.00 or less. Their lower wages would be compensated by no or few living expenses, although the trade-off in restricted living space, heightened surveillance of leisure time and activities by employers, and tendency to be ‘on-call’ beyond a regular working day resulted in a less than ideal situation and contributed to the numbers of women who left domestic service for the expanding clerical and retail sectors. Of the 25 women in the under-300. group who lived in their place of employment, five were housekeepers, four were nurses, and 15 domestic or general servants. Two women whose relationship to head was ‘unknown’ had occupations of nurse and housemaid, making them likely live-in help as well. In the 300.-599. group, 13 women lived with their employers, either within the institution in which they worked or in family homes as domestic servants. Two nurses and a governess lived in the homes where they gave care, and eight women were listed as ‘servant or domestic,’ with three having ‘housekeeper’ as their occupation, one ‘housemaid’ and four ‘domestic’ or ‘general’ servants. The two women who lived in their institutions included one ‘employee’ who was a missionary at the Chinese Rescue Home, and a ‘matron’ who lived and worked at a private boys’ school. The more specialized and higher-status work indicated by ‘housekeeper,’ ‘governess,’ ‘missionary,’ and ‘matron’ was reflected in the wages earned. Similar class distinctions start to emerge across the 300.-599. and 600.-899. categories. The household composition of daughters-of-heads also reflects a class division in the occupations held by household members as a group. In the 300.-599. category, the daughtersof-head included clerks, tailor/dressmakers, and a music teacher. Their families consisted of a widowed mother or both parents (usually retired) with adult siblings. Family members were clerks or hotel proprietors, or in the construction trades, mining, or needle trades. Above them, in the 600,-899. group, all the ‘daughters of head’ lived at home with a widowed or both parents, with one or more adult siblings and more than one income earner in the household. Generally, they present a middle-class profile in types of occupations in the household and incomes reported. They were teachers, nurses, and bookkeepers, and in the case of Florence Goward (38), an occupation of ‘Private Labour’ was noted for an income of  59  600.00. Their families included law students, teachers, librarians, bookkeepers, retail and financial clerks, and small business owners. The heads of household in these two categories either reveal independent (lone) residence, or a clustering of women. Of the three heads in the 300.-599. group, two lived alone – Margaret Holmes (62, nurse, 400.00) and Amy Sweet (55, nurse, 500.00). The age of these women is an interesting possible factor in their ability and/or decision to live alone: perhaps they were without living siblings, or perhaps they had amassed some capital over their careers to enable independent living. The third, Alice Williams (36, tailor, 450.00) lived with a boarder who is also in the sample (Bertha Davis, 32, tailor, 450.00). The similarity in age, occupation, and income indicates perhaps a relationship of companionship as well as economic contribution. For the 600.-899. group, Ethel Duffie is the only one who lived alone. Fanny Archbutt (45, music teacher, 600.00) lived with one boarder, fellow teacher (and cousin, as revealed in her obituary) Mabel Messenger. Ann Calder (61, unknown, 600.00) also had female boarders, a widow with an adult daughter. Abbie Gardiner (33, teacher, 800.00) lived with her ‘roommate’ or companion Agnes Gibson (see above). And four lived with their sisters (one also with a younger brother, though she remained the head of the household). We might expect the highest-earning women to have the highest incidence of truly independent living arrangements. But this is not the case. Obligations rather than economic dependence seem to have shaped many of the living arrangements of this group. Significantly, none of these lived in an institutional setting or in an employer’s home (although Dolly Grooms, an actress living with the theatre group at the Savoy Theatre, might fall under this category). Of the 12 high earners, only one was head of household – Grace Beira (30), a lodging house keeper (900.00) who lived alone with one young male Chinese servant, Sing (144.00) – oddly enough, no boarders were reported in her household. The four boarders all lived at good addresses with other boarders of similar class and incomes, indicating a strategy of respectable, even genteel living, with perhaps an eye to lessening isolation in a group environment. Dolly Grooms, whose listing was ‘unclear,’ should be considered a boarder, as she was an actress living with other performers in the Savoy Theatre complex (though it is likely she was only sojourning in Victoria with the theatre group). In the case of Annie Glass (48, insurance agent, 1200.00) who lived with her  60  nephew and his young family, it is hard to say what motivated this living arrangement – perhaps close emotional ties to this nephew, or a desire for respectable accommodation amongst family (or – this could be in reality her house, rather than that of the 28 year old carpenter making less than she did – 900.00). Perhaps she was an important source for income for the family. Both ‘daughters’ in this group lived with widowed mothers and siblings. Selina Frances Smith (39) made a good income (900.00) as a music teacher to the elite of Victoria, yet both her mother’s and brother’s work in the commercial bakery business founded by her father was the primary means of support in the household. (Smith continued to live in the family home, Seaview, for the rest of her life, inheriting it on her mother’s death.) In Agnes Deans Cameron’s case (37, high school principal, 1200.00), she was the primary economic support for her mother and ever-single sister Jessie. Elizabeth McCallum, although apparently possessing a fine independent income (her occupation was ‘retired lady,’ 1000.00), lived with her uncle and aunt – as she was the same age as her aunt (60) and only 10 years younger than her uncle, this may have been a relationship of compatibility and mutual support. Maria McDonald (39, not given, 1080.00) lived with her widowed sister and two kids, a second sister listed as ‘married,’ and several boarders. It seems likely McDonald was a key supporter of the household, which continued after the sister’s death in 1902 (the 1902 directory had Miss McDonald as head at the same address).37 One group that offers only a shadowy presence in the Athenas sample is prostitutes. It is impossible to tell from the census which women in the sample, if any, might have made money offering sexual services, as no occupation such as ‘prostitute’ or the contemporary term ‘sport’ or ‘sporting woman’ is reported.38 But there are some clues as to who might have been in the sex trade. No less than nine single women from the sample occupied two blocks of Chatham Street in the heart of Chinatown. This section between Shore Street (right on the water of the harbour) and Douglas Street (where it turned into a street of working-class homes) had a high number of young (mostly under 30) single women living alone, or in pairs, among houses with multiple Chinese and Japanese bachelors. All nine women from the 37  Elizabeth Fraser, died 28 Feb 1902, San Diego, CA, USA, 48 years of age. Ross Bay Cemetery plot P114EF. Ross Bay Cemetery database, City of Victoria Archives ( 38 However, many ‘sports’ can be found in Vancouver’s Dupont Street in 1901, and I will be discussing prostitution in more depth in chapter three.  61  Athenas sample that lived here leased houses from two to six rooms, but all lived alone except Marie Burman (30, unknown), who lived with her 21-year-old single sister. Five were listed in the 1902 city directory; they all had arrived before 1896 (with one exception, Katherine Lee, 35, arrived 1900), leased houses of six rooms (suggesting that some might have had unlisted employees or ‘inmates’), and were the five oldest women as well (aged 34 to 44). Interestingly, the four not listed in the city directory were only recently arrived (between 1898 and 1900) and others were listed as living at their addresses in the 1902 directory. This indicates to me a transience typical of younger women in prostitution, while the more-established women may have been madams or at least found a stable position in the sex trade. ‹ race, class, and household composition  Clearly, household-level analysis reveals some of the strategies of survival for single women, and the class hierarchy that single women fit into. However, an equally crucial factor in these women’s lives was race. The fluidity of census categories that expressed ‘race’ between 1881 and 1901 renders a complex picture for women who can be traced through all three census years. Born in Victoria in 1862, Seraphina Montero’s ‘origin’ was listed as African in the 1881 census, her father’s birthplace as Portugal/Azores in the 1891 census, and her ‘colour’ as Black and ‘race’ as Negro in the 1901 census. Thus the racial categorization of the women in this sample could fluctuate over time. The 1901 census gave several fields under which racial and national origin could be expressed. ‘Race,’ ‘Colour,’ and ‘Birthplace’ used in combination give us a good look at the racial/cultural origins of the sample. The field ‘Nationality,’ although it sounds useful, was given as ‘Canadian’ for 381 of 405 entries despite the fact that only 186 women claimed Canada as place of birth. It seems this field was mostly used to indicate a permanent resident status (or intention to be so), even for those who had arrived in the county only a year or two before. The ‘Colour’ field gave one of four choices: Black, Red, Yellow, or White – for people of African, Aboriginal, Asian, or European descent. As Constance Backhouse reminds us, these indicators were highly value-laden and artificially pre-determined the categories of  62  people to be encountered.39 The ‘one-drop’ paradigm (enumerators were instructed that any non-White heritage made the individual that ‘colour’) and incredibly limiting schema of the colour determination renders a realistic count of Métis and mixed race (let alone non-Asian, Black, White, or Aboriginal) individuals impossible. However, it does help identify individual women who – even if in the second or third generation of White intermarriage – may still carry the signifiers and social stigmas of Aboriginal ancestry in particular. Table 14: Place of birth, Athenas sample Canada United Kingdom United States Europe/Russia British Possessions Asia At Sea South America Africa  # 186 149 45 14 5 2 2 1 1 405  % 45.9% 36.8% 11.1% 3.5% 1.2% 0.5% 0.5% 0.2% 0.2% 100.0%  Starting with ‘place of birth,’ we can see the sample is overwhelmingly of Canadian/British background (for a full breakdown by country and by province see Tables F & G in the Appendix). At first glance, the vast majority of women in the sample come from British states, either the United Kingdom itself or its colonies. European heritage generally appears to predominate, with only six women listing their place of birth in South America, Asia, South Asia, Africa, or the south Atlantic. However, even this small number is misleading – in fact, only the two women born in Asia (China) and the one born in St Helena were not also ‘White’ in the ‘Colour’ field. Except for the latter, the women born in the various British possessions and Africa (which was likely also from one of the British colonies) were all White and all listed their ‘Race’ as ‘English,’ suggesting they were daughters of British colonists or officials in these states. The woman born in Argentina, Mary Baillie, was of Scots descent, suggesting her origin from a similar sojourning family, although Argentina was a Spanish colony at this time. With the exception of the two women born in China and one in St. Helena, all women of colour in the sample were born in Canada or the United States. 39  Constance Backhouse, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 3-4.  63  Table 15: ‘Colour,’ Athenas sample # Black Red Yellow White  7 11 2 385 405  % 1.7% 2.7% 0.5% 95.1% 100.0%  As for the ‘Colour’ field, given the ‘one-drop’ rule, any Aboriginal ancestry, however distant, would determine the field as Red. Thus Simon Fraser Tolmie, a future BC premier certainly accepted as ‘White’ in political affairs, was listed as ‘Red’ in the 1901 census, along with his sisters May Fraser Tolmie and Jane Work Tolmie, all grandchildren of pioneer immigrant John Work and his Métis wife Josette Legacé. Their mixed White-Aboriginal heritage made them ‘Red.’ Table 16: Race (descent)a, Athenas sample # British Northern European/Russian Aboriginal African Asian South American a  337 48 10 7 2 1 405  % 83.2% 11.9% 2.5% 1.7% 0.5% 0.2% 100.0%  Either fully or partially that heritage, as reported on census.  In the census ‘Colour’ was further refined through the ‘Race’ field, with “persons of mixed white and red blood” to be indicated by the European origin of the father (i.e. ‘Scots breed’) or in the case of a wider origin, ‘Other breed.’40 (For a full breakdown see Table H in Appendix.) Thus the female descendants of the Work family were listed as ‘Scots breed,’ presumably from the original pairing of the Scot John Work and Métis Josette Legacé rather than an accurate description of their own paternity. The tendency to trace origins through the father – as was done in the 1881 census – is curiously reversed here, with even the least Aboriginal ancestry from grandmothers causing these women to be counted as non-White. The Tolmie sisters, Sarah Finlayson, and Lillias Grahame, who could only claim one-eighth Aboriginal descent through their common grandmother Josette Legacé Work, were designated as ‘red’ and (all but Grahame) as ‘Scots breed’ – meant to denote the ethnic mix 40  Canadian Families Project, The National Sample of the 1901 Census of Canada User’s Guide (Victoria: Canadian Families Project, 2002), 24.  64  of Métis individuals. Self-declaration (or declaration by others in the household) might have determined Selina Frances Smith’s notation under Race as ‘English’ and Lillias Grahame’s as ‘Scot,’ although they came from Black and Aboriginal families respectively.41  Black women The majority of the seven Black women in the sample were born in the US, with one from St Helena, one Ontario, and one born in Victoria. Jennie Weeks (50, general servant, 96.00), Helena Maria Timms (84, general servant) and Clara White (37, domestic servant, 336.00) all lived in their employers’ homes. All worked for prosperous families.42 Timms can be traced through three successive censuses, remaining with one family through its various permutations – first with a widow and her daughter in 1881, then in 1891 in the daughter’s home with husband, child, and mother; then in 1901 still with the daughter’s household (and she is 84 at this point, so the nature of her ‘service’ seems likely to have been minimized from earlier years and her position more that of an old family retainer). She passed away in 1905 in the Aged and Infirm Women’s Home in Victoria. Minnie Williams (30, unknown) and Georgia Scudder (36, unknown) were heads of households, and both lived alone in small, three and six room leased houses on Chatham Street, the street identified earlier as likely to be the red light district of the city.43 From the racial and class profiles of this one street, it would seem that these two women lived in a cheap, even ostracized section of town, possibly as prostitutes, or with prostitutes as neighbours, but in any case within the means of working-class single women and (usually Asian) men.44 The two women living with kin both enjoyed better socioeconomic circumstances. Seraphina Montero (38, unknown) lived with her brothers and married sister (and the sister’s family). Her brothers held railway jobs traditionally open to Black men – Joseph was a CPR porter, and Francis was a teamster and expressman; her brother-in-law George Carter was a  41  CC 1901, Victoria D15/22/26 Grahame, Lillias M(ary); D02/26/42 Smith, Selina Frances. Timms’ and Weeks’ employers made 1800.00 and 2000.00 respectively, and although White’s employer gave no income amount, she could afford to pay White and a Chinese cook 300.00 or more each. 43 CC 1901 Victoria, D14/16/23 – Williams, Minnie; D14/16/42 – Scudder, Georgia. 44 1902 Victoria Directory, viHistory Project ( 42  65  baggage man.45 Only George’s earnings (400.00) were given, but it is likely that a combination of the male earnings sustained a decent standard of living for this household. Selina Frances Smith (39, music teacher, 900.00) was one of the most prosperous women in the Athenas sample. Not only did she make a very good income as a private piano instructor to the elite families of Victoria, her family also ran one of the pioneer manufacturing concerns in the city, an industrial bakery begun by her father Moses Roe Smith in the 1860s. Smith lived in the family home ‘Seaview’ on toney seaside Dallas Street with her mother (who took an active part in the business) and her younger, single brother Hamilton (who reported 2000.00 in earnings). Smith, who had been educated at Victoria’s private girls’ school Angela College and then conservatories in Toronto and Leipzig, clearly had the wealth and status to access the education and social contacts to become a prominent music instructor whose recitals attracted the cream of Victoria society.46  Asian women Tracing women of Asian descent is particularly problematic. For example, the 1901 census missed Lim Soo, who claimed in 1966 to have lived in Victoria all her life.47 The two women of Asian descent in the Athenas sample found themselves in very different circumstances – Ah Yut (38, unknown) was an inmate of the Chinese Rescue Home and Lang Lin Ying (51, unknown) lived in the home of her brother-in-law, a successful merchant. Both were fairly anomalous situations for Chinese women. Ah was the oldest of five women, four Chinese and one Japanese, who lived at the Chinese Rescue Home, a shelter and school established in 1888 by Methodist missionaries to ‘rescue’ Asian girls from prostitution and slavery, and to inculcate Christian conversion and European domesticity as routes to new lives as Christian wives and mothers.48 45  See notations in the 1901 Census of Canada database, BC GenWeb ( In 1901 Joseph, the head, had ‘crazy’ listed under ‘infirmities.’ 46 Selina Frances Smith fonds, British Columbia Archives (hereafter BCA) MS-1992. 47 For the 1967 Centennial of Confederation, the BC Centennial Committee awarded Pioneer Medallions to B.C. residents who were either born in Canada or were a resident of Canada prior to 1 January 1892. Lim Soo was a single woman born on or before this date (her birthdate is not given). Canadian Confederation Centennial Committee (1966-1967), Pioneer Medallion Application Forms, BCA GR-1489, box 16 file 11, Lim Soo. 48 Karen Van Dieren, “The Response of the WMS to the Immigration of Asian Women 1888-1942” in Barbara K. Latham and Roberta J. Pazdro, eds. Not Just Pin Money: Selected Essays on the History of Women’s Work in British Columbia (Victoria: Camosun College, 1984), 81.  66  Lang immigrated to Canada in 1892 at the age of 42, at some point joining her brotherin-law Quan Leong and his wife Ng Moi, who came in 1858 and 1866 respectively (it is unclear whether the wife is her sister). The gap in years between their immigration dates is interesting – was Lang caring for parents or relatives in China (although traditionally daughters-in-law were expected to take up that duty)? Was she a member of one of the marriage resistance sisterhoods?49 Why would she – or Quan – go to the expense of paying her passage to Canada? Although no earnings are given for anyone in the household, Quan’s status as a merchant implies relative affluence.  Aboriginal and mixed-race women What is striking about the women reporting Aboriginal descent is that more than half of them were daughters and granddaughters of Hudson’s Bay Company officials who settled in Victoria during the fur-trade era with their Aboriginal or Métis wives and aspired to the status of landed gentry as part of the colonial elite.50 Lillias Grahame, Sarah Finlayson, and Jane, May, and Josette Tolmie were all granddaughters in the large Work clan, granddaughters of Josette Legacé and John Work, HBC chief factor and largest landowner in early Victoria. Jane Fraser (42, unknown) was the daughter of Paul Fraser, another HBC chief factor. Only Kate Pamphlet (34, unknown) and Cecilia Thomas (35, servant, 180.00) are listed as ‘North American Indian’ – the rest are ‘Scots Breed’ or ‘Other Breed,’ denoting mixed-blood heritage (with the exception of Lillias Grahame, who lists her race as ‘Scot’ but is also listed as ‘Red.’) Only three of the seven reported occupations and incomes – Caroline Reed (31, housekeeper, 500.00), Cecilia Thomas (35, servant, 180.00), and Josette Tolmie (31, nurse, 85.00). Both Reed and Thomas lived in their employers’ homes. The rest all lived with their families – five with widowed mothers, one with father and mother (Lillias Grahame, 31, unknown), or (in the case of the Tolmie sisters) on the family estate with their brothers. Sarah Finlayson (40, unknown) lived in a privileged household with two Chinese servants, and the Tolmie sisters – Josette, Jane (38, unknown), and May (40, unknown) – lived first at the 49  For more on marriage resistance sisterhoods, spinster clusters, and other forms of marriage resistance in China, see Janice E. Stockard, Daughters of the Canton Delta: Marriage Patterns and Economic Strategies in South China, 1860-1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989). 50 Sylvia Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes of Five Founding Families of Victoria,” BC Studies 115-116 (1997). 150.  67  family estate ‘Cloverdale,’ and then their own residence of ‘Cloverbrae.’ Josette Tolmie’s low income could reflect a training wage (or possibly a monthly rather than yearly amount), and her nursing work was unlikely to have been needed by the family but rather the family circumstances allowed her to pursue this occupation while her sisters likely held roles of domestic supervision. Certainly in the case of the Tolmie sisters (and presumably the rest of the Work clan) comfortable means can be assumed. The question then is the extent to which these women felt the effects of racism in their marriage choices, at the same time that the wealth of the founding families of Victoria could enable comfortable single lives. Sylvia Van Kirk contends that in the second generation of the families of HBC and Aboriginal marriages such as the Work clan, the daughters (the mothers of the Tolmie sisters, Sarah Finlayson, and Lillias Grahame) had a distinct advantage over their brothers (who faced problems making successful careers and marriages in their class), on the whole making successful marriages to White elites. Colonial demographics worked to their advantage; their fathers’ positions and wealth and their own training in elite British colonial homes allowing them to overcome racial prejudice and make a 100% marriage rate in this second generation.51 Van Kirk notes that in the third generation (the one that appears in the Athenas sample), who “in terms of blood and socialization” had little left of their Aboriginal heritage, the Tolmie and Finlayson sons made greater successes in professional and public attainments, while the marriage rate of the daughters was not as high as the second generation.52 Whether this was a result of some lingering note of racialization, the vagaries of the marriage market, or the security that allowed a single life, is unknown. The very use of ‘Red’ for the third-generation Work descendants suggests that some consciousness remained, if only in the minds of those reporting to census-takers.  Without diaries or other autobiographical sources, we cannot know the daily and enduring effects of racialization in the lives of women of colour identified in the Athenas sample. Although some working-class women occupied niches in domestic service traditionally open to women of colour, others were more conventionally middle class. In the  51 52  Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes,” 178. Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes,” 178 n53.  68  end the range of socio-economic statuses among women of colour in the Athenas sample is similar to White women, as is the range between choice and necessity to be single. But intangible is the effect of race discrimination on their ‘prospects’ – for secure employment, for supportive networks, and for marriage. Instances of erasure of racialization in the census and other sources reflect the fact that passing was a key theme in many of the lives of women of colour in the Athenas sample. As Van Kirk notes, “there was little room for a middle ground: these children could not build an identity that acknowledged the duality of their heritage.”53 In their obituaries, the race of women of colour was almost never referred to or even made possible to infer – principally by the erasure of mothers and grandmothers for women of Aboriginal descent. Sarah Finlayson’s obituary is filled with an account of her father’s life, with no mention of her mother’s history or origins, or even full name. May Fraser Tolmie’s obituary mentioned that she was, on the maternal side, granddaughter to John Work.54 No hint of the Aboriginal ancestry in these families is made, unless the reader might have understood that many pioneer members of the HBC had made strategic and personal alliances with Aboriginal trade partners through ‘country marriages’ with Aboriginal women. Kate Pamphlet is mentioned as being “connected with the early history of this city, her parents having been residents of the Province from the earliest times.”55 Selina Frances Smith’s father is noted as a pioneer manufacturer without mention of his African-Canadian origins. In the census, Smith – like Lillias Grahame – gave her ‘race’ as something that denoted whiteness (‘English’), possibly due to the fact her parents were Ontario-born and thus possibly of Black Loyalist roots. Only Helena Maria Timms’ obituary mentioned something that would indicate her racial status – her birth in the south Atlantic island of St. Helena, a British possession with a large population of African descent.56 The social and economic success of Selina Frances Smith demonstrates how performance of middle-class/elite values and the money to do so can mitigate the negative effects of racialization. The Tolmie sisters also enjoyed the status and social connections to 53  Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes,” 150. “Daughter of Pioneer Dies,” (Sarah Finlayson) Victoria Daily Times 30 September 1935, 15; “Miss Tolmie is Mourned,” Victoria Daily Times 4 January 1934, 1. 55 Obituary, Kate Pamphlet, Victoria Daily Times, 16 June 1923, 9. 56 “Was Pioneer Musician” (Selina Frances Smith), Victoria Daily Times, 16 July 1938, 11; Obituary, Helena Maria Timms, Victoria Daily Times, 25 September 1905, 8. 54  69  be successful socially – but did they encounter a declining ability to marry well? It may be that increasing numbers of ever-single children amongst subsequent generations of key Victoria pioneering families formed by White-Aboriginal marriages could be read as a factor of growing racism as Victoria matured; women of Aboriginal background that did not have the wealth and connections of the Work descendents might have found their prospects dwindling by 1901. However, the high esteem that Victoria apparently held for women like Smith and the Tolmies (demonstrated by May Fraser Tolmie’s front-page obituary in 1934) lends weight to the argument that prosperity for some women could offer enough room for choice.  Beyond the census: ever-single women The Athenas sample as a whole offers us a snapshot of the conditions under which single women were living in the spring of 1901. But for those women who can be confirmed as ever-single, obituaries and archival materials offer some further insight into their strategies for survival. Several women’s obituaries uncovered occupations and enterprises not visible from the 1901 census records. As suspected, many women with ‘unknown’ occupations may have indeed had pursued formal employment outside giving domestic services to their families. Sarah J. Murton (1870-1926) had been a teacher since at least 1892.57 In her obituary, Rebecca Groves (1845-1925) was revealed to be a music teacher and pianist. Coming to Canada from England in 1893 to join her niece and her niece’s new minister husband (likely upon the birth of their first child), Groves followed the family through various parishes on Vancouver Island, teaching music and likely handling the music for church services and events.58 Some women operated businesses, a fact not made clear in the occupation notation for at least one woman. Rose Jane Soper (1862-1933) was apparently one of Victoria’s “pioneer business women,” having opened the Marvel Millinery Store upon her arrival in the city in  57  CC 1901 Victoria, D15/20/23 Murton, Sarah J.; Obituary, Sarah J. Murton, Victoria Daily Times, 1-February 1926, 9. 58 CC 1901 Victoria, C2/02/41 Groves, Rebecca; Obituary, Rebecca Groves, Victoria Daily Times 23 September 1925, 9.  70  1896; her 1901 census record listed her as a ‘Dry Goods Store Employe[r].’59 In 1901 she was the head of the household, with her widowed brother and young nephew living with her, and she owned a seven-room house as well as a store (presumably the Marvel or another business). According to her obituary, from 1921 until her death in 1933 she conducted a ‘dry goods business.’60 Other women may have switched professions after the census. Catherine Cossar (18651926), a ‘general servant’ in 1901, was named a “highly esteemed member of the nursing profession.”61 Julia Devereux (1826-1920), whose occupation was appropriately yet somewhat irrelevantly listed as ‘Living on Own’ in the 1901 census, was revealed to have operated an employment agency “for many years” by the time of her death in 1920.62 And at least two women became business owners after the census. Fanny Archbutt (1855-1933) established the successful Poplars School for Girls in 1905 with her younger cousin Mabel Messenger, who was living with her in 1901. Born in London and educated in private schools in England and on the Continent, Archbutt was well travelled and an accomplished pianist and singer. “Many members of the present social set” were pupils at the Poplars School, which Archbutt ran for 28 years.63 After the death of her grocer father in 1901, Fanny Elizabeth Ward (1851-1937) established a general store with residence above, living with her two sisters. She was still proprietor of the business when she passed away suddenly in 1937, aged 85.64 As age and infirmity advanced, it is reasonable that ever-single women would seek the assistance of networks of kin and friends for physical as well as social support. A few looked to institutional solutions to their needs, but the majority lived out their lives in their own or others’ homes. Of the 67 women whose obituaries give this information, 16 (23.9%) remained in the same homes they occupied in 1901, but 51 (76.1%) did not. And 27 women 59  The entry is unclear but given that she owned a store property, ‘employer’ makes more sense than ‘employee.’ CC 1901 Victoria, D13/04/28 Soper, Rose T. 60 CC 1901 Victoria, D13/04/28 Soper, Rose T.; “Miss R.J. Soper Died Yesterday,” Victoria Daily Times 5 January 1933, 11. 61 CC 1901 Victoria, D2/22/22 Cossar, Catherine; Obituary, Catherine Cossar, Victoria Daily Times 3 April 1926, 10. 62 CC 1901 Victoria, D6/05/09 Devereux, Julie; Obituary, Julia Devereux, Victoria Daily Times 10 March 1920, 17. ‘Living on Own’ only appeared twice in the census, the other for a widow. 63 “Girls’ School Founder Dies,” Victoria Daily Times, 15 May 1933, 7. 64 CC 1901 Victoria, D12/07/40 Ward, Fanny E.; Obituary, Fanny Ward, Victoria Daily Times 12 November 1937, 15.  71  were identified as living with various kin, usually brothers and sisters, but also nieces and nephews. One lived with a friend. It would appear that the interdependence found in the 1901 households continued to be a primary strategy for ever-single women. Several women sought institutional solutions for housing, care, and community. Although the overwhelming majority of women whose obituaries can be traced died at home or the home of relatives, 10 women were recorded in their obituaries as having lived in care institutions, seven in the Aged and Infirm Women’s Home, two in private nursing homes, and one at Tranquille Sanatorium. Although neither their dates of entry into these homes nor their personal circumstances (such as illness) is known, some patterns do emerge in a closer look at the women who entered the Aged and Infirm Women’s Home. In 1898 the Aged and Infirm Women’s Home (AWH) opened on McClure Street, moving to larger facilities on Rupert Street in 1907.65 The AWH was the first institution caring exclusively for women in Victoria, earlier philanthropic efforts having been focussed on the elderly remnants of the bachelor miners that thronged BC in the gold rush years. Entering the AWH was likely a strategy for the frail, the ill, and those without kin support. Most of the women who can be traced to the AWH did not live at home with family even in 1901. Helena Maria Timms (1816-1905) and Teresa White (1825-1911) both servants in 1901, lived in the AWH in the first decade of the century.66 As long-time domestic servants, both over age 75 in 1901, the Home was perhaps a good place for these women, who likely had few means, had no homes of their own and no apparent kin in Victoria, and would seek retirement from the demands of service with advanced age. A second group lived in the home in the late 1920s and early 1930s. As a self-employed dressmaker who boarded in 1901, Annie Jenkinson (1861-1934) may have found the AWH a similar and amenable living situation.67 Margaret Holmes (1838-1932) a nurse making 400.00 (and the only one of this group reporting income in 1901), lived alone in 1901 in a  65  City of Victoria Archives website, The Reference Desk, Frequently Asked Questions []. There is also a history of the AWH in the City of Victoria Archives Library: Mrs. I.A. Gould, “History of the Aged and Infirm Women’s Home,” City of Victoria Archives L0205. 66 CC 1901 Victoria, D10/16/49 Timms, Helena M.; Obituary, Helena Maria Timms, Victoria Daily Times, 25 September 1905, 8; CC 1901 Victoria, D12/23/48 White, Teresa; Obituary, Teresa White, Victoria Daily Times, 8 May 1911, 18. 67 CC 1901 Victoria, D06/19/31 Jenkinson, Ann; Obituary, Annie Jenkinson, Victoria Daily Times, 29 November 1934, 13;  72  small four-room house which she owned; because she had some property at her disposal, her move to the AWH might have been a strategy for comfort and security in advanced age.68 At the time of the census, Julia Saunders (1835-1930, lodging house keeper) headed a house with her nephew and six boarders. Already 65 in 1901, she may have soon found the work of a boarding house was no longer tenable, and as her nephew had died in 1913, she may have had no kin to reside with.69 Only two women in the AWH group lived with kin in 1901. Alice Miller (1849-1932) lived with her sister and a niece in 1901, as well as several boarders.70 Alice Miller’s sister passed in 1907, and her niece is difficult to trace. It is likely that Miller had no other kin to call upon for support in Victoria. In 1901 Sarah Carlow (1853-1929) lived with her newlywidowed mother and newly-married brother, as well as a sister, a cousin, and a boarder.71 Her mother died in 1907, and her cousin in 1912, while her sister had likely married by then. However, both her brother and sister outlived her and died in Victoria, suggesting that they lived in the city at the time of Carlow’s tenure in the AWH. It may be that the ties of kinship were not sufficient for Carlow to find a place with them, they were unable to accommodate her for economic or other reasons, or she preferred the Home. It is possible that some of these women sought the potential community in a collective care institution such as these. The advantages of community life were also found by the striking number of nuns (25) in the Athenas sample, nearly all members of the Sisters of St. Ann, who played a vital role in education and medical services in Victoria.72 As a lifelong personal commitment and survival strategy, the convent offered many opportunities for women: professional training and employment in teaching, the arts, and nursing; the opportunity for community service; religious vocation; and as a collective, the benefits of communal living and support. Sister Mary Bridget (1847-1933) came to Victoria in 1866, 68  CC 1901 Victoria, D11/21/17 Holmes, Margaret; residence in AWH noted in text of death registry, on the BCGW site:, 11/21/17 Holmes, Margaret. 69 CC 1901 Victoria, 12/27/32 Saunders, Julia; Obituary, Julia Saunders, Victoria Daily Times, 13 January 1930, 6. 70 CC 1901 Victoria, C1/07/20 Miller, Alice A.; “Aged Resident Dies” (Alice Miller), Victoria Daily Times, 2 December 1932, 15. 71 CC 1901 Victoria, D13/05/05 Carlow, Sarah E.; Obituary, Elizabeth Carlow, Victoria Daily Times, 31 July 1929, 15. 72 For more on the Sisters of St. Ann see Gresko, “Gender and Mission: The Founding Generations of the Sisters of St. Ann”; and Margaret Milne Martens and Graeme Chalmers, “Educating the Eye, Hand, and Heart at St. Ann’s Academy: A Case Study of Art Education for Girls in Nineteenth-Century Victoria” BC Studies 144 (2004-05): 31-59.  73  taking up duties as a teacher at St. Ann’s convent. She then was sent to the US for nursing training, returning to Victoria to be the first superior of the new St. Joseph’s Hospital, founded by the order in 1874. She then gave up the position to another, and she would be superior again from 1904 to 1918, when age and infirmity caused her to retire and become a patient herself, cared for in the religious community she built.73 Property ownership was also a traditional strategy of creating income and security pursued by ever-single women. It is also likely that many women who had ‘unknown’ occupations and earnings derived income from property: inherited, shared with kin, or purchased themselves. Sixteen women (4%), all heads of households, owned property in the Athenas sample; 10 of those were confirmed ever-single and one confirmed married postcensus. Several more were likely to have inherited family property on the deaths of their parents or siblings, or to have purchased other properties with those resources post-census. Women who were ‘daughters of head’ and had ‘unknown’ occupations and income in 1901 – in other words, an apparent image of dependence – could transition upon the deaths of parents into independent heads of household or take on responsibilities for siblings. Pauline Lange (1860-1933) either purchased or inherited from her parents a block of stores in the main business district, with her residence above. The income from the rents was sufficiently large to allow her many acts of anonymous philanthropy, providing fuel and food to needy families.74 The four ever-single Carr sisters all employed various property holding strategies that reflect some of the varied uses of property for ever-single women. Heirs to their merchant father’s modest six-acre estate, the sisters divided the original family property into parcels for their own use in close proximity to each other, breaking up the pastureland into city blocks. In 1913 the two eldest sisters, Edith and Lizzie, built a substantial-sized house at 231 St. Andrews Street. The third sister, Alice, built a small house at 218 St. Andrews Street, which she put to use as a schoolhouse for her private teaching business.75  73  “Pioneer Sister Called to Rest,” (Sister Mary Bridget) Victoria Daily Times, 11 January 1933, 1. “Victoria Woman Philanthropist Died Yesterday” (Pauline Lange), Victoria Daily Times, 20 March 1933, 15. 75 Paula Blanchard, The Life of Emily Carr (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987), 137. Pictures of these sites are posted at Emily Carr and the House of All Sorts (Steele Eye Productions, 2000) ( See “Edith Carr’s House” ( . 74  74  Emily, the youngest and most well-known of the sisters, built a house with suites to set up as a boarding house in 1913 (known as the ‘House of All Sorts,’ chiefly from her stories about the fifteen years she spent as a landlady there). The plans included a studio to support her work as an artist, although the vagaries of being a landlady in slow economic times meant she spent many years barely scraping a living, even turning part of her original living space into another flat to rent and renting her studio and personal rooms out during the Great War. She eventually sold the house in 1936 in partial trade for a small private residence for herself. Poor health prompted Emily to move in with Alice in 1939, taking over the old schoolrooms as a studio.76 Although her sisters appear to have spent out their lives in their respective houses, at the end of her life Emily switched from home and kin to an institutional solution for her care, moving to St. Mary’s Priory home for seniors which was located close to Alice’s house.77 Some women also held properties as investments, often looking outside urban boundaries. Some two-dozen BC single women appear as owners of land on the tax rolls of the Abbotsford-Sumas-Matsqui district between 1900 and 1919, most of whom lived in urban areas and held rural land as investments.78 The speculation fever in Vancouver that fuelled its pre-Great War boom also attracted single women looking for profit and security. In a study of Crown land purchases in 1912 at the height of the boom, Robert A.J. McDonald noted a ‘surprisingly high’ number of female speculators, including nurses, clerks, and stenographers as well as single women giving no occupation.79 Victoria women also sought rural land purchase as a potential home and source of selfsupport. Agnes Deans Cameron owned a fruit farm in the Kootenays and advocated the purchase of small landholdings in BC’s interior for single women: “To the woman of small  76  Blanchard, Life of Emily Carr, 254, 270. See “Alice Carr’s Schoolhouse” ( 77 Blanchard, Life of Emily Carr, 289. See “James Bay Inn” ( ( 78 ASM Museum and Archives, Matsqui Assessment Register, Wards I-IV, 1900-1913, 1-90 and 1919, 9-63. Between 1898 and 1914, after ‘proving up’ land in the US (where single women could homestead), Margaret Bayne bought and sold land in the Cariboo, alone and with consortiums she formed for that purpose. Bayne, Roses in December, unpublished mss., n.d. (ca. 1935), BCA MS-2808, 143-51. 79 McDonald, Making Vancouver, 139. ‘Unmarried women’ applied for 7.8% of the land, nurses 0.8%, and clerks and stenographers (listed as ‘partly women’) 8.6% for the week of 3 October 1912. Table 5.5, Occupations of land purchase applicants in British Columbia for the week ending 3 October 1912 (by quantity of land applied for), 140.  75  capital and big brains, the fruit lands of British Columbia to-day offer an ideal career.”80 In 1921 the Victoria Local Council of Women echoed Cameron’s assessment, recommending the purchase of “the small British Columbia farm of from three to five acres” for “women, who, through force of circumstances, are obliged to fight life’s battles alone and are looking for some occupation or investment that will provide an income for the future.”81 This suggests a fluid boundary between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ for some ever-single women. Although I found high numbers of ever-single women who are recorded as dying in Victoria (132 of 175 or 75.4% – which does not confirm but would imply a high number of women who lived in Victoria since 1901), some women could look beyond the city limits for some of their strategies of survival. For many of the ever-single women who can be traced, no one occupation or source of income formed their livelihoods. Instead, a cluster of strategies was used by these women, from property ownership to small business ventures to bringing in boarders. Others, notably those privileged enough to access professional training in nursing and teaching, attained something closer to the ideal middle-class male life model of youth, training, and career in a single profession. And still others did live out their lives within the homes of their birth families, in some cases the very same house. Many of these women may have been ‘dependents’ in the classic sense of not bringing any income of their own into the family; but the contributions they made to the household of a less tangible or measured sort, including domestic work, caregiving, and entertaining, should not be dismissed. What the householdlevel analysis of the Athenas sample reveals is that rather than a simple dichotomy of total dependence on family or total independence from family or others, ever-single women pursued multiple strategies of survival that together are better characterized as a model of interdependence that is a valuable framework for studying single women in the past.  The class of single women Although it is clear that the snapshot of the 1901 census does not tell the whole story of all single women in Victoria, it does offer many insights into how mature (ever-)single women survived outside marriage, and many outside the support of their birth families. The 80  Vera Webster, “Superfluous Women,” interview with Cameron in London (UK), incomplete news article, no provenance, ca. 1910-11. BCA, Newspaper clipping files, Agnes Deans Cameron. 81 “Can Women Farm Here Successfully?” The Victoria Daily Colonist 23 February 1921, 4.  76  multiplicity of occupations held and households inhabited by these single women invites questions about their class identification. As David Camfield notes, “class formations develop from the relations people have to the conditions of production and other classes” and that “class relations are anchored in the places where paid work is done but are also very much present in the community and household spheres of social life.”82 Although a full construction of the class relations of eversingle women, especially those that flow from the community and household, cannot be undertaken here, I do want to offer some brief comments on the possible hierarchy of occupations that ever-single women pursued, as well as some insights to into how women might have seen their occupational identities. In the next chapter (‘Making it in Vancouver’), we will be able to look further at some potential relations between women structured by class and status. Although clearly there was a hierarchy of income and working conditions experienced by the women in the Athenas sample, how that compares to historians’ classifications of male occupations merits consideration. For example, Robert A.J. McDonald constitutes the male ‘professional’ class of Vancouver as including lawyers, judges, doctors, clergymen, architects, notaries, and teachers.83 Of this list, the only cross-over in the Athenas sample is teachers; female lawyers and doctors do not appear, though they would start practicing in Vancouver after 1910 (Mabel Penery French was the first to be called to the bar in BC in April 1912 and several doctors appear in the city directories), and Janet Gilley could still be heralded as the first female lawyer in New Westminster to set up her own practice in 1924.84 The female proportion of the ‘male’ professions – especially doctors and lawyers – would continue to be small through the Second World War and beyond.85 The ‘female’ professions into the interwar period are usually seen as the triad of teaching, nursing, and (office)  82  David Camfield, “Re-Orienting Class Analysis: Working Classes as Historical Formations” Science and Society 68/4 (Winter 2004-5), 426-7. 83 McDonald, Making Vancouver, 125 84 The Sunday Province (magazine section), 1 February 1925, 5. In fact, Gilley was the 15th woman called to the bar in BC, but one of only seven (out a total of 23) called before 1930 that practiced for an extended period. Joan Brockman and Dorothy E. Chunn, “‘Imagine That! A Lady Going to an Office’: Janet Kathleen Gilley” in Jonathan Swainger and Constance Backhouse, eds. People and Place: Historical Influences on Legal Culture (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003), 153. 85 Female doctors and lawyers only reached 30% and 34% of their respective professions in 1993. Prentice, et al., Canadian Women, 357.  77  clerical.86 In fact, these can be seen as the top tier female occupations, even though in a male occupational hierarchy they would be considered middle-class at best. This shift is one of the vital differences in assessing the class positions of ever-single women. What would a specifically ever-single female occupational hierarchy look like? At top of the scale, arguably, is the privileged ever-single woman who does not work for wages at all, enjoying her family’s wealth and substantial inheritance when parents are gone. This group of ever-single women can be related more directly to male-based measures of class and status, as their livelihoods are linked to their family’s (father’s) class position. I see this group as a kind of shadow of the ‘business leaders’ – in effect, owners of the means of production – that comprised Vancouver’s upper-class economic strata as well as the highlyplaced entrepreneurs, magistrates, and former HBC factors who formed Victoria’s elite.87 The best correspondence of the top tier for ever-single woman who worked for wages was the middle-class to upper-middle-class professional, a ceiling if you will based on the limits of pay, authority, and capital accumulation available to women, even in the most lucrative and high status professions. These would include teaching, nursing, bookkeeping, social work, and journalism (the last two also not yet formally present in Victoria in 1901, although the missionary at the Chinese Rescue Home offered services akin to social work, and the nuns also would have had larger institutional roles in spiritual and charity work). Women in managerial positions ranging from supervisors of hospitals to state institutions can also be slotted here. The key to this stratum, I argue, is not only education and the drive to professionalization but also some direction over the conditions of work. Entrepreneurs and small businesswomen, such as self-employed dressmakers, held ownership of the means of production and direction over their working conditions, although their businesses usually clustered in the labour-intensive retail sectors, and so could be 86  This group numbered 1484 (23%) of Vancouver female wage earners in 1911. The breakdown of 6452 female wage earners also included: domestic and personal service: 2720 (42.2%) and trade and merchandising: 1075 (16.7%). McDonald, “Working Class Vancouver,” 41. 87 Although some single women did hold property and pursue capital loans and investments, their numbers were quite small; for example, hovering between 4.2% and 4.6% of all women over 19 before 1901 in Victoria, and 6% of all female investors over late nineteenth century Victoria. See Peter Baskerville, “Women And Investment in Late-Nineteenth-Century Urban Canada: Victoria And Hamilton, 1880-1901” Canadian Historical Review 80/2 (1999), 205, Table 6, and 211, Table 9. Baskerville notes that with the relaxation of the bar against married women controlling property in the 1880s, single women might have gained in contributions from inheritance and family assets: “Parents of single women may have been more willing to bequeath assets or contribute to a single daughter’s financial needs without worrying as much about the possible predatory control of a future husband.” Baskerville, “Women And Investment,” 195.  78  vulnerable to economic downturns.88 Parallel are the private arts instructors whose position in the community could vary based on their skill, social connections, and fees. Clerical work as a broad category straddled the line of respectable self-support. Although highly trained stenographers could be well paid, the general run of clerks and other whitecollar workers hovered at the edges of the middle class, and their paths for advancement were sharply truncated into ghettoized pools of labour. The distinction between a typist, a retail clerk, and a skilled industrial worker had more to do with conspicuous consumption, image, and working conditions than pay.89 Retail work, notoriously badly paid and demanding long hours, was also particularly about personal dress and comportment, encouraging the “the dilution of working-class behaviour and appearance” and requiring a blending with middleclass and elite clientele.90 Other working-class occupations in the service industry and small-scale needle trades industries (such as those in Victoria) saw a range of conditions and wages. However, the majority of women in ‘unskilled’ industrial occupations experienced the worst conditions and income.91 These were the occupations targeted by reformers, who were “heavily reliant on language and imagery that reduced women to perpetual girlhood” while they called for wages that “included almost nothing beyond the barest sustenance.”92 Employers used the excuse of the non-self-supporting female worker to pay women in these occupations even less than a subsistence wage.93 These conditions made these occupations the least desirable or even possible for a self-supporting ever-single woman to take. 88  For a discussion of women entrepreneurs in BC before1901, with some inclusions of single women, see Peter Baskerville, “‘She Has Already Hinted at ‘Board’’: Enterprising Urban Women in British Columbia, 18631896” Histoire Sociale/Social History 26/52 (1993): 205-227. See also Melanie Buddle’s dissertation on selfemployed women in BC between 1901 and 1971: “The Business of Women: Gender, Family, and Entrepreneurship in British Columbia, 1901-1971.” PhD diss., University of Victoria, 2003. 89 Sangster, Earning Respect, 64-6. 90 Suzanne Morton, Ideal Surroundings: Domestic Life in a Working-Class Suburb in the 1920s (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 146. 91 Prentice et al., Canadian Women, 132-4. 92 Alice Kessler-Harris, A Woman's Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990), 11-13; Lori Rotenberg, “ The Wayward Worker: Toronto’s Prostitute at the Turn of the Century” in Penny Goldsmith, Bonnie Shepard, and Janice Acton, eds. Women at Work: Ontario, 1850-1930 (Toronto: Canadian Women’s Educational Press, 1974), 48; Gillian Creese, “The Politics of Dependence: Women, Work, and Unemployment in the Vancouver Labour Movement Before World War II” in Gillian Creese and Veronica Strong-Boag, eds. British Columbia Reconsidered: Essays on Women (Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1992), 368. 93 Kessler-Harris, A Woman’s Wage, 15-18. Creese, “Politics of Dependence,” 369. The 1907 Toronto Bell telephone operators’ strike commission found that although “almost half of the workers were self-supporting  79  And domestic service, that paean of the middle-class reformer, should be seen as distinctly at the bottom of a scale of class distinction and support for independent single lives. Yet that did not mean that domestic service was also the bottom of respectability. Here, the problem of not being able to make enough to meet living expenses was solved (nominally) by the live-in nature of domestic service, and its character as household-based domestic work matched precisely the core definition of respectable: the subordinate domestic female. That this was the occupation least likely to create economic stability and independence for single women was part of its appeal to reformers; it is more likely that the steady demand for domestics and the guarantee of subsistence was the draw for the many single women in domestic service in the 1901 Athenas sample. Notions of respectability, comportment, and ‘suitability’ (in veiled or overt race and class criteria) hover as constitutive elements throughout this proposed scale, modifying access and opportunity to class mobility. Kathryn McPherson notes that entry to nursing programs through this period was highly classed and raced: “the young, single White women from a range of class and ethnic backgrounds who filled the apprenticeship programs were expected to embody the social standards of bourgeois femininity.”94 Dionne Brand notes that up to the Second World War, 80% of Black women in Canada worked as domestic servants, as they were on the whole barred from the more well-paid middle-class occupations such as clerical work.95 Added to this was the vitally important element in any occupation for the ever-single woman: its potential for self-support. This generally equated to the ‘middle-class’ occupations that paid well and looked well. Notably, the most stable occupations required levels of education and support normally available only to middle class or elite women: professional (teacher, nurse) and office-clerical occupations required secondary or other specialized training96; ‘accomplishments’ teachers such as private music and arts teachers (as  and that most of the remainder supplemented household incomes with their earnings, [management] maintained that there was no cause to increase their wages, since the operators were ‘ready to get married’ after a short period of employment.” Strange, Toronto’s Girl Problem, 41. 94 Kathryn McPherson, “‘The Case of the Kissing Nurse’: Femininity, Sexuality, and Canadian Nursing, 19001970.” In Nancy M. Forestell, Kathryn M. McPherson, and Cecilia Morgan, eds. Gendered Pasts: Historical Essays in Femininity And Masculinity in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1999), 182. 95 Dionne Brand, No Burden To Carry: Narratives of Black Working Women in Ontario, 1920s-1950s (Toronto: Women’s Press, 1991), 15. 96 Katrina Srigley notes that many single women in the interwar period who did not attend high school used Shaw’s Business School to move into ‘business’ work. Katrina Srigley, “Help Wanted – Single, White and  80  well as governesses) required education in the arts – a classic elite female course of study – and respectable social credentials; and small business opportunities through self-employment in a respectable women’s line of work (dressmaking, millinery) required some capitalization as well as training. The very ability for some women to train for and work at a ‘respectable’ job or vocation should be considered an important class privilege, especially for those who could access professional training. The support of family was also a crucial element, both in allowing and paying for a daughter’s training for some kinds of work. ‹ occupational identity  An important correlation to occupational position is occupational identity. Alice KesslerHarris notes that an orientation “based on work-related consciousness rather than on domestic concerns, may have been typical of female workers who did not believe their work status was temporary.”97 Given the numbers of single women not reporting occupations in the 1901 census (even when occupations or incomes can be determined in other sources) suggests that, unlike men, working ever-single women might not automatically craft their identities around their occupations, and instead we need to look for a spectrum from indifference (or reticence, even shame?) to strong identification. Some findings from an earlier census may help frame the issue. In their study of the industrial workforce in the 1871 census returns for Ontario, Kris Inwood and Richard Reid compare individual returns from the population schedule with the industrial schedule that reports ‘proprietors’ of industrial establishments.98 This method uncovered a large number of women who were considered proprietors but reported no occupation on the population schedule: only two-thirds of single women proprietors reported their occupation.99 Two contrasting types of female proprietors offer some insights into why single women might or might not identify with their occupations. The high correlation of single  Female: The Boundaries of Wage-Earning During the Great Depression in Toronto,” paper presented at the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting, University of Toronto, May 2002, 23. 97 Kessler-Harris, A Woman’s Wage, 64. 98 The definition of ‘proprietor in the enumerators’ instructions state, “where one or several persons are employed in manufacturing, altering, making up or changing from one shape into another, materials for sale, use or consumption.” Inwood and Reid, “Gender and Occupational Identity,” 59. 99 Two-thirds of singles and widows, and one-third of married women reported an occupation, unlike male proprietors, who had nearly 100% reporting occupation, with the small exception of some of the oldest men, who presumably saw themselves as retired. Inwood and Reid, “Gender and Occupational Identity,” 65.  81  dressmakers (average age 30) reporting an occupation (92%) is attributed to dressmaking’s potentially sustainable output, undertaken over a large part or whole of the year; its status as a definable occupation outside family subsistence production; and its potentially independent income and living. In contrast, weaving was a very rural occupation; was mostly a part-time, seasonal activity often undertaken as part of a diverse family economy; and was done between tasks to run the household and farm. These reasons, the authors speculate, contributed to why weaving, with the exception of high-output weavers, was not as wellreported as an occupation (44%).100 These factors contributing to a distinct occupational identity for single women suggest some insights to the patterns of occupations reported in the 1901 Athenas sample, as well as bring up questions of how single women’s class identities might have been structured. As we have seen, unlike most men, single women might very well report no occupation – fully 50.4% of women in the Athenas sample report no occupation, while only 5.13% of single men at or over age 30 report ‘unknown’ or ‘none.’101 And as noted before, discerning the relationship of women to paid labour from the ‘occupation’ category is problematic, given the trend of ‘hidden incomes’ that I uncovered as well as the systematic under-enumeration and under-representation of women’s work across most censuses in this period. To identify those women that might have had strong occupational identities, I crossreferenced the women who did report occupations in the 1901 Athenas sample with the 1902 Victoria city directory (compiled in 1901) and available as a searchable database at the viHistory site.102 We should note that this directory was not comprehensive, for not all heads of household in Victoria were listed, as is clear when surveying the heads of household in the Athenas sample: only seven of 25 heads with ‘unknown’ occupation (28%) are listed. Instead, it is a valuable tool for assessing who might have desired their names and occupations to appear in the directory, although it is impossible to determine – much like the census – how and by whom such information was reported. So we can assume that those who actually made it into the directory were there from a combination of support, recognition, and/or inclination to identify with their occupational identities. 100  Inwood and Reid, “Gender and Occupational Identity,” 64, 68. 1901 Census of Canada database, Victoria, viHistory Project, (, single males >=30 years. 102 The database is taken from Henderson’s City of Victoria Directory, 9th edition (compiled in 1901 and published in 1902). 1902 Victoria Directory database, viHistory Project ( 101  82  Eight of 22 women (37%) listed as ‘Employer’ or having income ‘On Own Account’ (generally meaning self-employed) had entries in the 1902 directory. They were employed as dressmakers, milliners, music/arts teachers, and lodging house keepers. Not surprisingly, they were all heads of household but two – one with her sister and brother-in-law’s family; the other, Emily Woods (42, art teacher, 200.) lived with her older sister (thus more likely shared the house). Of the self-employed needle trades and music/arts teachers, four of eight selfemployed dressmakers (50%) are listed, one of one milliners (100%), and two of three music/arts teachers (67%). In other words, the majority were listed in the 1902 directory, indicating a strong identification with their occupational identity as independent business or cultural producers – as well as a need to advertise.103 Again, heads of household predominate. For the professions of teaching and nursing, the numbers reveal a differential. Only six of 26 nurses (23%) were listed, and nine of 19 teachers, including principals (47%). Aside from private-duty nurses, few of these women would have the need to advertise their services, removing that reasoning from any decision to be included.104 And only one is head of household out of the whole set – Amy Sweet (55, nurse, 500.) – an interesting finding.105 In fact, only two teachers in the entire sample are heads of household and neither is listed. The listed teachers were all boarders (three) or daughters (six). The acceptance of teaching as a proper middle-class female profession, its visibility in the community, its standard steady months of work, and its high pay must have contributed to these women reporting their occupations. The lower reporting for nurses may reflect its lower status and community visibility. And for retail and clerical occupations, three of 15 retail (including all types of clerks and sales – 20%) are listed, and two of 5 for office-type clerical (stenographer and ‘Agent  103  Interestingly enough, the one person I would have assumed would be in the directory – Selina Frances Smith – was not, although her brothers and her mother were present. Her strong identity with her occupation in her archival fonds indicates that perhaps this was a case of elitism: so well-known that she did not require an entry in a city directory? Or were other mechanisms of propriety (or again, who reported the household to the directory takers) operating here? 104 It appears that teachers were listed by independent canvass like other occupations, as listings by school do not have nearly enough entries to have been taken from the school board or other staff registers. However, judging by the numbers, it appears as if someone listed all the nurses at the Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital. 1902 Victoria Directory database, viHistory Project ( 105 Relationship to household for listed nurses and teachers: 7 daughters, 2 nieces, 3 boarders, 2 ‘nurses,’ and 1 unknown.  83  Insurance’ – 40%). Again the numbers were lower for the group with a more tentative claim on middle-class respectability, image, and pay. It is also interesting that for all ‘daughters of head’ reporting an occupation and listed in the directory, all but one had other family listed as well – the exception is Georgina Richardson (40, dry goods clerk, 400.) though her father’s hotel (and her residence), the Windsor, is listed. This suggests a certain family outlook of acceptance of these daughters working, as well as a sense of their own social standing, to have reported (or been included) in the directory. Overwhelmingly, family members whose occupations are listed were teachers, business owners, or in higher-status clerical and sales positions – indicating a middle-class standing for the entire household that might support the occupational identity of these single women.  As we have seen, a simple of examination of occupation and income does not tell the whole story of ever-single women’s strategies of survival. The household in particular was a crucial site for economic and social support and class identity, especially for underemployed or non-employed women. At the same time, the ever-single woman who did not live with kin needs to be studied as a participant in class formations in her own right. These comments offer an interesting picture of class identity that is neither constituted as flowing only from males nor compromised by assumptions of women’s ‘eventual’ marriage and domesticity that leads scholars to miss considering the full implications of a lifetime of waged work and self-support for women. Clearly, it is possible, with a great deal of crossreferencing, to identify whole cohorts of ever-single women; to start to understand the class situation of single/ever-single women, what is sorely needed is research that looks at the conditions of ever-single women’s work and survival over time and in comparative Canadian centres with different economies. The systemic structural dependence built into Canadian labour relations - the deliberate use of the figure of the ‘dependent daughter’ to not pay a living wage to women - meant a border around occupations that could allow women to live single (and allow women who stayed single to live). How this operated, or was mediated and resisted, across the major self-supporting occupations for women is a much-needed study. Such a longitudinal and comparative study must look specifically at ever-single women’s work, taking the single woman worker not as the ‘marrying woman’ - and thus attending only  84  to the conditions and consciousness of those that eventually married - but the ever-single woman. At the same time, we need to see how some ever-single women were participants in the structured dependence of other single women, as employers and managers, as social reformers calling for surveillance of single women’s activities, and civic authorities shaping the legislation that governed wages and conditions of work. This brief attempt to envision a class structure for single women underlines the importance of status. The class of a single woman can be measured in great part by her economic means and occupation - the data captured by census takers - but also needs assessment through hierarchies of education, family, association, and, importantly, moral standing - which requires a different empirical approach. The next chapter turns to this question of status - the element of community approbation so vital for single women in particular, especially in regards to perceptions of their moral/sexual conduct, that governed their access to the training, jobs, and housing that enabled their strategies of survival and success.  85  Three: Making it in Vancouver: Respectability, status, and the single woman Fewer welcomes await the prodigal girl than await the prodigal son. No pretty clothing to replace her out-dated gown, no coveted ring, no feast of friends and neighbors who stand by ready to help her to a new start in an honourable and better way of life. – Margaret Bayne, Roses in December, 185.  Two women in the 1901 Athenas sample exemplify an interesting problem in determining the class and social status of single women. Maud Murphy was a 32-year-old dressmaker making 800.00 per year in 1901, and lived at a good address, a boarding house shared by other young single women with relatively lucrative occupations (actress, milliner, typist), all of whom made more than herself. And Alice Seymour was a 39-year-old boarding house keeper (no income given) who owned her own 11-room house on a respectable lower middle-class street as well as other property. Her lodgers were similar to Maud Murphy’s housemates: single, under 30 years, they included a student, a nurse, an actress, and a dressmaker – the last two making 1000.00 each. Both these examples seem to present the ability of single women to access good incomes and maintain respectable, comfortable living conditions – signs of stable or even upwardly mobile class privilege. Until, that is, I discovered that Maud Murphy was also/actually a prostitute, her home one of the finer ‘parlour house’ brothels in Victoria, and Alice Seymour one of its elite madams.1 This knowledge interrupts the vision of the comfortably-situated single woman; now, while still possessing the outward signs of class privilege, she was vulnerable to police harassment and incarceration and was an object of vitriol as the source of sin and immorality in society – the ‘social evil.’2 A mere change of occupation – not residence, income, or consumption – embeds these women in an entirely different matrix of social relations than I had assumed. The power of sexualized norms of respectability to determine social status is one that had unique capacity to shape the social, legal, and material conditions of single women’s lives. 1 2  Linda J. Eversole, Stella: Unrepentant Madam (Victoria: Touchwood Editions, 2005), 72, 84. Valverde, Age of Light, Soap, and Water, 77.  86  Thus in this chapter, I turn from an examination of material conditions to questions of status. And for that, there is no better place in British Columbia to investigate this than Vancouver, the booming, status-conscious young city that had surpassed Victoria in population in 1901, and by the First World War had established itself as the permanent economic and social hub of British Columbia. Vancouver society was structured as much around systems of association and prestige as relationships to the means of production, as Robert A.J. McDonald argues in his important study of the city, Making Vancouver.3 A classic Weberian definition of status includes “an effective claim to social esteem in terms of positive or negative privileges” founded on ‘style of life,’ education, occupational or hereditary prestige, privileged modes of acquisition, and status conventions or traditions. Class and status greatly influence each other but are not identical; high income or occupational attainment may not bring status prestige, and high status can be held without wealth.4 How status might function in specific sites of social interaction important to single women is the aim of this chapter. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of the ‘field’ (champ) and ‘symbolic capital,’ I will discuss two very different – but inextricably linked – sectors in the social matrix of Vancouver: Vancouver’s ‘High Society’ and Vancouver’s demimonde or criminal underclass where resided the prostitute. As Toril Moi explains, a field is “a competitive system of social relations which functions according to its own specific logic or rules”; it is a game, “a competitive structure, or perhaps more accurately a site of struggle or a battlefield.”5 Participants evolve and uphold personal habits, tastes, and standards appropriate to the field – what Bourdieu calls habitus (“a system of dispositions adjusted to the game”).6 Vancouver ‘Society’ is a good example of such a field, and as we shall see, ever-single women play a key role as legitimizing agents in its structure. In Bourdieu’s theory, there are “two kinds of wealth circulating in society – economic wealth and symbolic wealth. Both forms can be inherited and accumulated and both are  3  McDonald, Making Vancouver, 149. Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, G. Roth and C. Wittich, eds., E. Fischoff et al., trans. (New York: Bedminster Press, 1968), 305-6. 5 Toril Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu: Feminist Theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s Sociology of Culture” in Derek Robbins, ed. Pierre Bourdieu, vol. IV (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2000), 317. 6 Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” 318. 4  87  highly unequally distributed.”7 Economic wealth “imposes invisible constraints by systematically structuring people's access” to symbolic capital8; however, sheer attainment of economic capital does not deliver symbolic capital. ‘Symbolic’ capital includes the possession of symbolic values that operate as “mechanisms of selection and consecration” to a particular field such as credentialing, comportment, consumption, and cultural competencies (“the stock of cultural goods which are socially designated as worthy of being sought and possessed”).9 Toril Moi notes that “powerful possessors of symbolic capital become the wielders of symbolic power” and are able to shape the boundaries and composition of their fields: the doxa. The right to speak, legitimacy, is invested in those agents recognized by the field as powerful possessors of capital. Such individuals become spokespersons for the doxa and struggle to relegate challengers to their position as heterodox, as lacking in capital, as individuals whom one cannot credit with the right to speak.10  As we will see, well-placed ever-single women were spokespersons for the doxa, not just of the specific fields in question here, but also the wider field of gender. Moi argues that gender itself is a field, or more accurately, a part of the ‘whole social field’ – one that overlays and interlocks with others, and one that has its own rules, capital, and habitus deeply shaped by heteropatriarchal norms.11 Gender is also always a socially variable entity, one that “carries different amounts of symbolic capital in different contexts” and modifies the effects of other kinds of symbolic capital.12 Thus while women circulating in a field of high status such as Vancouver ‘Society’ might have amassed the symbolic capital appropriate to membership, their participation was shaped by the demands of an intertwined or overlaying field of gender. And the key symbolic capital of the gender field was respectability.  7  Graham Murdock, “Class Stratification and Cultural Consumption: Some Motifs in the Work of Pierre Bourdieu (1977)” in Derek Robbins, ed. Pierre Bourdieu, vol. III (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2000), 134. 8 Murdock, “Class Stratification and Cultural Consumption,” 136. 9 Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” 318. Murdock, “Class Stratification and Cultural Consumption,” 134. 10 Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” 318. 11 Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” 329 12 Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” 330.  88  For all women, the essential element of respectability was adherence to heavily policed sexual norms. ‘Respectable’ was the vital category that encompassed a web of classed, gendered, and racially-construed behaviours, comportment, dress, residence, occupation, and public activities that summed up a ‘reputation’ that was to be explicitly nonsexual while properly feminized: potentially available to men, attractive to the male gaze, and subordinate. While economic capacity structured a woman’s ability to survive without marriage – and to make lifestyle choices about consumption, residence, and leisure – reputation and respectability mediated her access to economic and social opportunities, including social networks and associations that made up the fabric of social life in Vancouver. Respectability shaped who could remain single (including access to respectable employment and housing), and who must remain single (significantly, the ‘fallen’ woman).13 Race, class, and reputation intersected in determining who had access to opportunities for ‘respectable’ singleness, and who escaped stigmatization and why. Definitions of respectability also modified who was more vulnerable to rape or harassment. Aboriginal and Black women have been historically constructed in Western industrializing societies as already, always-sexualized beings, while White middle-class women have been generally seen as icons of ‘purity’ and meriting legal and social protection – “dependent upon their willingness to personify a narrow vision of respectable white femininity.”14 Economic privilege could offer respectability to racialized women such as Selina Frances Smith in the Athenas sample, while (as we will see in this chapter) other women of colour with few economic means were relegated to the standing of prostitute. Joan Sangster reminds us that the terms of ‘respectable’ could also change over time: “increased consumerism after the 1920s set more materially based standards of respectability, 13  For moral reform and discourse on women’s illicit sexuality in English Canada, see Valverde, Age of Light, Soap, and Water; Michaela Freund looks at the discourse around the prostitute in 1930s and 40s Vancouver in “The Politics of Naming: Constructing Prostitutes and Regulating Women in Vancouver, 1939-45” in J. McLaren, R. Menzies, and D.Chunn, eds. Regulating Lives: Historical Essays on the State, Society, the Individual, and the Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002), 231-58; for a good postwar study of the sex trade in Vancouver focussing on striptease, see Becki Ross, “Bumping and Grinding on the Line: Making Nudity Pay” Labour/Le Travail 46 (2000): 221-50. 14 Such protection was not to extend to women’s relations with their husbands, however, and magistrates were reluctant to step in on domestic violence cases in BC’s early history. Perry, On the Edge of Empire, 174. Jean Barman notes the discursive regime erected around Aboriginal women “so profoundly sexualized aboriginal women that they were rarely permitted any other form of identity” and that, “by default, Aboriginal women were prostitutes or, at best, potential concubines.” Jean Barman, “Taming Aboriginal Sexuality: Gender, Power, and Race in British Columbia, 1850-1900” BC Studies 115/116 (Autumn/Winter 1997/98), 264.  89  over which women had less control.” Sangster also cautions that “even though notions of appropriate gender roles and symbols of status changed, one constant remained: women had a tremendous responsibility for protecting respectability but often had limited means and resources to do so.”15 Ultimately, the dilemmas and rewards of social status based on respectability depended greatly on outside acknowledgement of one’s status by peers and social and state authorities. This discursive regime surrounded single women especially, and was particularly powerful in Canada, the UK, and the US in the decades between the first incursions of women into higher education and industrial work in the 1880s and the end of the Great War.16 But single women were not merely recipients of regulation and objects of the reforming gaze. As we will see in this chapter, ever-single women professionals also took roles of discursive leadership, from the (literal) policing of morals on the streets to the shaping of the highest echelons of the social elite. This chapter explores the discursive mechanisms of status for single women, concentrating on two representative fields in Vancouver for which extant individual-level historical records exist with which to construct critical case studies: Vancouver high Society at the eve of the Great War, and the ‘sporting women’ of Vancouver’s demimonde concentrating on the turn of the century. I will begin with a discussion of Vancouver high Society, that exclusive group of high-status individuals that maintained its own boundaries through discursive regimes that some single women penetrated and also helped maintain. At the other end of the social spectrum was the ‘sporting woman,’ the prostitute on the margins of urban life – or was she? An interesting question I will discuss in this section is the possible effect of economic success and community stature for (ever-)single women in the sex trade at the turn of the century. A close look at these diverse status groups in Vancouver reveals interesting conditions, even contradictions in how single women might negotiate the status hierarchy in a growing urban centre. Most significantly, this chapter emphasizes the centrality of single women to (all levels of) society and the leadership that single women bring to both crafting and policing 15  Sangster, Earning Respect, 116. See Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860 (New York: Knopf, 1986); Strange, Toronto’s Girl Problem; and Joanne Meyerowitz, Women Adrift: Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). 16  90  the borders of status groups. Like the previous chapter, this study again relies heavily on group data at certain points in time (police records, the census, and directories), so the analysis will discuss the ‘single woman’ generally as a metacategory, with a look, when possible, at ever-single women within each group.  High Society and the single woman In 1914 the Welch & Gibbs publishing company produced the Vancouver Social Register and Club Directory, a 137-page publication that not only lists the socially prominent families of Vancouver (with address and days for receiving visitors) but also the memberships of 35 prestige clubs and organizations. In their foreword, the publishers argue that ‘social life’ is the very lifeblood of the city: Largely by this means the standards of culture and refinement are developed and maintained, art is encouraged, the finer kinds of craftsmanship sustained, merchants supported in their desire to make the best offerings to their patrons, ambitions for success stimulated, and the joy of living increased.17  These ‘standards of culture and refinement’ were the symbolic capital crucial to the formation of the social field that was Vancouver’s highest social level, or simply ‘Society.’ Into this matrix of social interaction and material consumption came the single woman, who played leadership roles in the clubs and organizations that were vital to Vancouver Society’s functioning. Ranging from important business and networking private clubs like the exclusive Vancouver and Georgian Clubs, to open recreation-oriented associations such as the Connaught Skating Club, the clubs appearing in the Club Directory (combined with the individual and families listed in the Register) give us an important framework of the boundaries and membership of this field.18 The development of Vancouver Society echoed that of urban centres of the United States and Great Britain in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, where social changes from the rapid mobility resulting from industrialization created a more self-conscious social elite which employed specific instruments of definition, from the social pages in newspapers to restrictive policies for elite club memberships. Similarly, the key to Vancouver’s status elite 17  Vancouver Social Register and Club Directory (Vancouver: Welch & Gibbs, 1914), 5. For convenience, I will refer to the social registry section of the Vancouver Social Register and Club Directory separately as the Register and the club directory portion as the Club Directory. 18  91  was ‘voluntary and associational,’ with prominent individuals and families building boundaries through select prestigious clubs, associations, and other vehicles of recognition to forge a “lifestyle based on shared values and intimate access to one another.”19 By 1914 this status elite was cohesive enough to have produced two directories of Society members.20 Although many independent single (and confirmed ever-single) women were included inside these boundaries, discussions of status elites usually privilege male and familial structures – but a closer look provides some valuable insights into single women’s access to this social echelon. The family was a key unit of social association for scholars such as Robert A.J. McDonald, whose work on (male) business and professional leaders in Making Vancouver demonstrates that membership alone in such elite organizations as the Vancouver Club did not guarantee the professional or business man admittance to the circles of Society. As McDonald notes, “he would remain on the social margins of the upper stratum unless connected by ties of family and home to men of comparable prestige.”21 ‘Family and home’ is of course where women most obviously come into this picture of elite self-consciousness, yet there also was a vital leadership role for women to play in forming Society. As Julia Bush notes for the elite social circles of England, “the style and decisions of powerful women helped to define their parameters.”22 And the same can be found for Vancouver, when the perspective is flipped away from men’s associational and professional ties to women’s. In doing so, what emerges is a more complex view of the composition of Society elites, demonstrating the roles single women played in the highly discursive character of high status attainment in this period in Vancouver. The associational character of Vancouver Society allows us to identify its broader group composition through the use of club memberships, and a valuable resource for this is the 1914 Vancouver Social Register and Club Directory. McDonald uses the Register to calculate the broad membership of Vancouver’s highest social stratum, as well as determine who the leaders of Society were and their correlation to his list of business and professional leaders for the same period. McDonald’s count of the 2,491 entries found that 2,270 19  McDonald, Making Vancouver, 152. A less comprehensive version than the 1914 Vancouver Social Register and Club Directory was issued in 1908. 21 McDonald, Making Vancouver, 165. 22 Julia Bush, “Ladylike Lives? Upper Class Women’s Autobiographies and the Politics of Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain” Literature & History 10/2 (2001), 55. 20  92  consisted of married couples and 221 single men or women for a total of 4,761 people (this count does not include the children or other household members named in some families’ entries). From this measure, and taking into account an average of 1.5 children or close relatives for each couple, he estimates that the total ‘upper stratum’ approximated 8,000 people.23 Taking only the 32 single women listed independently in the directory24 as indication of the measure of adult single women’s presence in Society would lead us to conclude that single women had a marginal role and that entrance to this group was very difficult for single female aspirants to elite status. McDonald goes on to determine the Society leadership – Vancouver’s ‘400’ – by crossreferencing the membership of certain prestigious clubs and associations in the Club Directory with the Register. His study measured participation of ‘husbands or wives’ over the 1910-14 period in two ways: membership in three of the city’s eight most prestigious clubs; or inclusion in the Register, along with membership in the Vancouver Club and one other prestige club.25 The eight clubs chosen (based on participation by the six families most likely to be Society leaders, such as the Tuppers and Bell-Irvings) were: the Vancouver Club, the University Club, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, the Vancouver Rowing Club, the Vancouver Hunt Club, the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, the Connaught Skating Club, and the Georgian Club. All met criteria of education, wealth, or prestige that make them good resources from which to compile a list of social elites. But a closer look at this list of prestige clubs reveals that their choice privileges men and male associations. Seven of the eight are open to men and only three to women; with the exception of the Georgian Club, no prestigious women’s club appears and the only other clubs open to women are mixed-sex athletic/leisure clubs (Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club and Connaught Skating Club). The business, professional, and single-sex recreational clubs on the list are all for men only or had only male members in this period, severely limiting the possibility of detecting a corresponding web of women’s networking, conspicuous consumption, and upward mobility. 23  McDonald, Making Vancouver, 163. The count would be 34 with the inclusion of two doctors whose marital status I could not confirm. McDonald’s count is 36, but this most likely includes these two, plus two other doctors I have confirmed as married. For this discussion I will leave all doctors out, though their existence in Society and in Vancouver generally needs to be studied further. 25 McDonald, Making Vancouver, 164. 24  93  Making Vancouver is thus successful in its focus on the social formation of male business and professional leaders, but less successful in capturing Society leadership as a whole, as it mostly excludes the complex female networks that were crucial to its functioning. The male-focussed model for determining Society leadership also distinctly disadvantages single women, since in the first formula, a single person must appear in all of the three clubs open to women, while the possibility of married couples adding up three clubs between them (with an extra five open to the husband) is much higher; in the second formula, the requirement of a Vancouver Club membership automatically disqualifies every female candidate. Not surprisingly, not one single woman meets these criteria, yet the presence of at least 32 independently listed single women in the Register as well as at least 260 adult daughters or nieces listed under their families’ entries suggests that single women were not marginal to the functioning of Vancouver Society. The solution then is to create a new set of criteria that takes women as a focus, while maintaining some of the logic of the previous measure. The first move is establishing a list of prestigious women’s clubs analogous to McDonald’s list. Several entries in this modified list have the right pedigree: membership includes the key Society players such as Mrs H.O. BellIrving and Lady Tupper, or have a significant proportion of members also appearing on the Register. All clubs chosen are listed in the Club Directory, which reinforces their place as the prominent clubs of Vancouver social life. The Georgian Club was an important choice for both the original and modified lists: created by leading Society women, its membership was incredibly restrictive (even more so than the Vancouver Club) and served similar functions as the Vancouver Club for its membership.26 The University Women’s Club (UWC) is an obvious analog to the University Club. The Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club and the Connaught Skating Club (CSC) can be usefully retained, although we will see that the use of these clubs as a measure of independent women’s participation in Society is limited. To this we should add the Women’s Musical Club (WMC), noted by McDonald as including members from only the most prominent of families27 as well as adding a single-sex recreational club to the list. “Cultural  26 27  As of 2001 the Georgian Club was merged with the Vancouver Club, which has admitted women since 1994. McDonald, Making Vancouver, 166.  94  associations of the socially prominent”28 included the mixed-sex Art, Historical, & Scientific Association (AHSA). The Women’s Canadian Club (WCC) also had an impressive percentage of Register members (over 35%) and the Canadian Women’s Press Club (CWPC), as the only specifically professional organization in the 1914 Club Directory (the Vancouver Business & Professional Women’s Club would only be formed in 1922) bears including. The executive of the Local Council of Women is also included, as a powerful umbrella organization that included several of the clubs on the list as well as key charitable and church societies – two important categories of women’s organizations which are (with two exceptions) not included in the Club Directory at all (and which may indicate an important nexus of more middle-class social networks). Keeping substantially in line with the original criteria from Making Vancouver, and taking into account the lesser likelihood of one individual being in more than two prestige clubs, I have developed these alternative criteria: Georgian Club + (any) listing in Register Georgian Club + one other club Independent listing in Register + one other club Two or more clubs  Inclusion in the 1914 Register remains an important criterion, as 32 women had independent listings. At least 260 women are also listed as ‘dependents’ in the Register (i.e. under their family’s listing) but many of them were clearly adult professionals who happened to live at home but participated in leadership roles in Society, such as journalist Lily Laverock and violinist Margaret McCraney. Several of these women were actually middle-aged or elderly, with some still working professional jobs, such as public health nurse Miss Breeze, or retired and living with kin, such as Miss Edge. It is quite likely that only those daughters who were adults, or at least considered ‘out in society,’ would be listed in the Register; it is reasonable to assume that most entries would not include young children (as most listings include only individuals or couples), although there is no age criteria listed for inclusion in the Register nor an indication that all or even most daughters ‘of age’ were listed. We must also be wary of assuming that women found in the Register encompass all the single women active in Society circles. The key method in 28  McDonald, Making Vancouver, 168.  95  deciding who was single was by looking for the honourific ‘Miss’ or the same surname in a family listing. In addition, there was a problem in sorting the daughters of Society families from other women with identical surnames, especially when they are listed by ‘Miss’ without a first name (‘Miss Smith’ being emblematic of the impossibility of determining some names – the Register alone has 26 Smith families, and the 1914 city directory several pages of Smiths). So this study is left with a list of 37 names that appear in the Club Directory, often several times, but because they cannot be matched with any confidence to a particular Society individual or family through the 1914 Register, several potential ‘leaders’ must be left out. However, a good list of 27 identifiable women in total (both independently-listed and listed daughters) is still available. The first thing that is striking about a cross-comparison of club and Register membership is that there is, in fact, little crossover between the Register/Georgian Club, cultural and voluntary associations, and recreational clubs. Although every club had at least one single female member that held a membership in another prestige club or the Georgian Club, the lack of wide crossover between the different ‘types’ of clubs – and the absence of any club membership for a majority of single women on the Register – seems to indicate that there were separate ‘pools’ or networks of high-status single women, and underlines the fact that single women – even in exclusive, high-status circles – cannot be seen as a homogenous group. In fact, single women appear to stream into at least four loose networks: recreational, reputational, self-selecting/cultural, and professional. It would appear that the ‘recreational’ clubs, although important in wider Society circles, mattered the least in single women’s affiliations. Of the 263 single women with at least one club affiliation, only 16 appear in the Women’s Musical Club, four in the Connaught Skating Club (CSC), and two in the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club (SHGC). The overwhelming majority of single women appearing in the CSC and SHGC appear to be dependent daughters of Society members with no other affiliation in the prestige clubs, indicating that these clubs were likely much more employed by the liminal single woman – young, marriageable Society debutantes – seeking prescribed social intercourse, rather than a place of sociability and networking appealing to older, potentially ever-single women. Conversely, the much higher number of women in lodgings or as heads of household amongst the single women  96  listed in the reputational, cultural, and professional clubs seem to indicate these are better places to look for independent/ever-single women’s participation and leadership. As the most prestigious and exclusive organization for women in Vancouver, the Georgian Club is a vital measure of reputation-based networks for single women. Established in 1910, it had the deceptively simple stated object “to provide suitable quarters for the Members, and refreshments and other things incidental to a club.” With a fixed membership of 260 regular, ‘resident’ members (plus 15 non-resident, temporary, and ‘privileged’ members) and an incredibly restrictive entrance policy, the Georgian club was a locus for that maintenance of exclusivity that was a key component of the formation of social elites in Vancouver in this period. Membership in the Georgian Club was very exclusive – nominations by two members were necessary and only two ‘nays’ of the 260-person ‘resident’ membership would exclude an applicant, as opposed to the 1-in-6 rejection ratio of the Vancouver Club.29 Because the attractiveness of potential members does not seem to have rested on business connections or reputation (not one of the members of 1914 whose occupations can be found was involved in any sort of business or even a profession outside journalism) we need to assume that more exclusively social criteria were applied – i.e. family and other social connections, as well as nebulous personal qualities or habitus of respectability and culture (which we should also assume were very dependent on the performance of proper images of femininity). This would make membership in the Georgian Club entirely based on social approbation and perceptions of ‘suitability’ – in other words, highly discursive rather than based on particular economic attainments. Although several single women were charter members of the Club, the numbers of single women were not high in 1914, less than 5% of regular ‘Resident’ members, and 10% if we include the ‘privileged’ (secondary) class of membership (which was set aside for the daughters of married members, or, interestingly, the younger sisters of single members).30 Yet the presence of single women at all in such a carefully policed, exclusive group should be noted as an indicator for high status for these individuals, and evidence that singleness – presented as a stigma in popular culture – was not a barrier to social acceptance for many women. In 29  Constitution, Rules and Regulations of the Georgian Club (1912). City of Vancouver Archives (hereafter CVA), PAM 1912-08. 30 In 1914, only 13 regular members of 298 were single (4.4%); with the 18 ‘privileged’ members, single women total 31 or 10.4%. Vancouver Social Register, 88-90.  97  short, successful entry into the Georgian Club alone should be taken as a strong indicator of acceptance into Society. In contrast, the Women’s Canadian Club (WCC) was chiefly a self-selecting cultural club, with membership based on interest in current affairs and performance of imperial hegemony. The Women’s Canadian Club of Vancouver was founded in 1909 as an alternative sister organization to the male-run Canadian Club. Its aims were to foster a progressive, imperial Canadian identity as well as interest in Canada’s culture and history. Although it could be seen as a service club through its promotion of Canadian nationalism, its real impact was as an educational organization, and Club activities revolved around speaking engagements by leading national and international figures.31 Although hegemonic in its foundations and aims, the WCC drew a much broader base of members than the restrictive Georgian Club or University Women’s Club, and had the most single women members of all the cultural clubs examined here (17.5% of the membership). Interestingly enough, eleven members were also found in the Women’s Musical Club (making up fully 69% of the single women in the WMC) and this was the largest crossover between clubs, perhaps an indicator of a group of single women attracted to more traditional women’s recreational and educational activities. The Art, Historical, and Scientific Association (AHSA) can also be pooled here, as well as the