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Carmela Patrias

Carmela Patrias

The Hilda Neatby Prize English Article


Carmela Patrias, “More Menial than Housemaids? Racialized and Gendered Labour in the Fruit and Vegetable Industry of Canada’s Niagara Region, 1880-1945,” Labour/Le Travail 78 (Fall 2016): 69-104.

With the First and Second World Wars and the Depression as a general backdrop, this article focuses attention on women seasonal labourers in Southern Ontario’s fruit and vegetable industry. Using a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Carmela Patrias contrasts expertly the treatment and portrayal of two groups of women: the “farmerettes,” meaning Canadian women of British origin, and “import workers,” meaning Indigenous women, Japanese Canadian women, and Eastern and Southern European women immigrants, some from just south of the border in Buffalo. The former group, often consisting of students and teachers, was treated far better than the latter due to their respectable educational, race and class status, and their labour was considered inspirational to the war effort. The latter group experienced poorer wage, working and housing conditions than the former; immigrant women were distrusted because of their foreignness and political activism, while the sexuality of Indigenous women was considered suspect. This article, so pertinent to women’s, wartime, labour and Indigenous histories, also signals the importance of using food studies as a conduit to discussions about ethnicity, class, race and racialization in Canada.