Taking tea in the parlour: middle-class formation and gender construction in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, 1760-1850

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Knowledge of tea etiquette was a significant marker of middle-class gentility and contributed to middle-class formation and gender construction in colonial Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Early middle-class settlers brought tea ware and employed the tea ritual to set standards of gentility that determined social inclusion or exclusion. Tea drinking shifted from a predominantly masculine activity in the late eighteenth century, as commercial and political men met in their parlours over tea, to an increasingly feminine ritual by the mid- nineteenth century. Attending this transition was the feminization of the parlour, a quasi-public space important for the display of middle-class gentility — a process that blurred the boundaries of separate spheres as women extended their domestic and communal influence. Increased female control of the tea ritual and the parlour contributed to middle-class men’s concerns that their private and public authority was diminishing.

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Department of History - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)