The dominant representation of domestic work in the literature is quite negative, with uncaring employers, sexual, verbal, and physical abuse, and underpaid and overworked employees. However, the interviews conducted for this micro-study present an intriguingly different image. Young, immigrant Mennonite women who had come to Canada during the Second World War moved during the post-war period from their rural homes in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, into the city of Vancouver. There, they were employed in domestic work and spent Thursday afternoons at the Maedchenheim, or girls’ home, with their peers. This thesis examines the disconnect between their accounts of domestic work and those of other domestics, with particular attention to how ethnoreligious understandings of gender, community, and survival informed my narrators’ memories and retellings of their experiences. It also explores whether the shift from a rural to an urban environment changed these women’s perceptions of their gender identity.
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Thesis advisor: Keough, Willeen
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