Vancouver’s early twentieth century mainstream newspapers captured a feminine culture of the young woman worker caught in a moral paradox of naïveté and willing impropriety. Through images and narratives, the tumultuous social and economic changes of the day were rendered “class-based girl problems.” By contrast, radical labour newspapers represented women workers as “rebel girls” and valiant helpmates to the working class movement. This examination of images and narratives prompts consideration of how these class and gender discourses influenced real women workers. In particular, the telephone operators’ activism during Vancouver’s 1919 sympathetic strike demonstrates how women workers re-created discourses of class and gender in ways that brought greater control and meaning to their lives. While early twentieth century newspapers framed contemporary discourses of class and gender through images and narratives, they were unable to capture the resonance and pertinence of these discourses to the everyday lives of working women.
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Thesis advisor: Leier, Mark
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