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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Response to the depression : three representative women's groups in British Columbia Powell, Mary Patricia


The aim of this thesis was to investigate the response of representative women in British Columbia to the Depression in Canada during the 1930's. Canadian women had had the vote for only eleven years before the economic crash in 1929. The crisis of the Depression provided an opportunity for women to use their new found political power to effect much needed reforms in the social and economic system. Women had argued that they were especially interested in the sphere of social reforms and welfare and that their vote would ensure the passage of many social reforms. During the 1920's, women in British Columbia did indeed help to secure the passage of many reforms. The Depression, however, was by far the most serious crisis faced by the enfranchised women. Three women's groups were investigated as representative of British Columbia women. These three organizations were chosen for their character and interest in social welfare. The Local Council of Women of Vancouver was not only the local branch of the most important women's group in Canada, but it also attempted, through its numerous affiliated societies, to speak for women as a whole. The Y.W.C.A. was the largest and most important women's organization specifically concerned with welfare work. The B.C. Conference Branch of the Woman's Missionary Society of the largest Protestant denomination in Vancouver, the United Church, was also interested in social welfare through its home Mission work. The major sources of information were the respective Minute Books of each group. This source was supplemented by histories of each organization; newspapers and journal articles, particularly on the work of women during the Depression; and various printed material on aspects of the Depression. The conclusion reached in the thesis was that the women of the three groups investigated did not rise to the challenge of the Depression by proposing or endorsing any important reforms or by seriously questioning the social and economic system which had produced the Depression. Although examination of other groups would be necessary to warrant broader generalization, the evidence here presented indicates that the hopes of those who believed that women as a group would prove to be a distinctive and compelling force in social and political life were not justified by the experience of the depression decade in British Columbia.

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