Prayers, Pamphlets and Protests: Women and Relief in Saskatoon, 1929-1939
Healy, Mary Theresa
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This thesis examines the practice and application of relief policy in Saskatoon during the years of the Great Depression. The research focuses particularly on the effect of relief policy on the lives of women, and the effect, in turn, of women's activities on relief. The thesis argues that the Canadian relief system was based primarily on specific principles derived from the British system of relief, principles based mainly on moral judgements and economic concerns. These principles, largely considered failures in Britain by World War I, continued to influence relief policy in Canada until the experiences of the Depression proved their inadequacy. In Britain they failed because they did not meet their objectives of reducing the escalating costs of relief and controlling the labour of men. The economic depression of the thirties revealed similar failures in Canada. Using Saskatoon as a case study, the activities of those on relief in particular, the women who found themselves on relief and the women in various organizations who attempted to supplement and subsidize the inadequacies of relief - are examined. Their activities are considered to be fundamental to the emergence of a community consensus which rejected the moral and economic principles of relief. The consensus was that the relief system should be replaced by a national and centralized system of unemployment insurance and other welfare programs. The establishment of this understanding was an outcome of the direct and widespread experience with an outmoded relief system inherited from Britain.