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In the name of democracy : the work of women teachers in Toronto and Vancouver, 1945-1960 Llewellyn, Kristina R.

Abstract

In the Name of Democracy: The Work of Women Teachers in Toronto and Vancouver, 1945-1960, examines the limits of educational ’democracy’ for women educators. Educational administrators across the political spectrum assumed separate spheres to be intrinsic to the social contract for ’good’ citizenship: the school as a public institution was dedicated to the rational, autonomous, politically engaged subject. ’Woman’ was not that subject. This thesis demonstrates that women were quasi-citizens in the public school, yet leaders in the delivery of democratic hope for the age. On the one hand, women teachers were encouraged to participate in the increasingly ’democratized’ institution of the public secondary school and were embraced as necessary participants in the labour market of the education system. In the years after the Second Great War, the reconstitution of the social order depended upon their performance. On the other hand, the maintenance of traditional gender roles, disrupted by the trauma of war, was still heralded as women’s primary contribution to the nation’s stability. While women teachers acted within public institutions, their role remained defined by their private sphere ’capabilities’ and a gendered model of citizenship that promised security through the performance of educational ’democracy.’ This thesis employs a feminist analysis that centers on women teachers’ oral histories to illuminate both the normative democratic order of the period and the ways that women negotiated its boundaries. In particular, it combines modernist concerns for social structure and common oppression with poststructuralism’s concern for hierarchies of identification and difference. Both the common and discrete experiences of women teachers reveal that educational ’democracy’ was far from gender-blind in post-war Canada.

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