Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Women At Work

home Introduction | panel 1885-1914 1915-1939 1939-1971

Women at Work looks at the changing and expanding horizons for New Brunswick women from the late 1800's to the late 1900's - by focusing on the work engaged in by women, paid or unpaid. Though the Exhibit only provides glimpses of the work activities of specific NB women whose work may have been regarded as exceptional in its own time, it is expected that these examples are not aberrations - but are representative of what must have happened across the province.

The Exhibit does not consider, in any depth, the efforts which were required to push back the narrow borders which traditionally demarked "women's work" in this province and elsewhere. Instead, Women at Work looks at the evident successes of NB women as they stepped out of their traditional roles of unpaid domestic labour - shown in many of the photos on the first four panels - and performed work previously carried out by men or created and operated their own businesses. Each of the successes of the NB women made the road smoother for those who followed and for those who wished to strike out farther.

The Exhibit is arranged chronologically in three general time frames: pre-World War I (1885-1914), the interwar years (1915-1939) and World War II and later years (1939-1971).

The Exhibit hints that "women's work" was as Elspeth Tulloch (We, the undersigned, A History of N.B. Women, 1784-1984) noted, perhaps never so narrow as often defined and shows examples of women doing the unexpected in these early years. The later periods (Panels 5-11) allow the viewer to clearly see the increase in the variety of types of work which women performed. In the interwar years, women had better access to university education, and though most still became nurses or teachers, these were no longer the only occupations open to them. Obviously, because of the pioneering women who had not "gone quietly" before, because of improving educational opportunities for women, and because "the times they are a changing", women had choices to make regarding their own lives, particularly their working lives.

Women at Work documents those choices (showing women participating in politics, in medicine, in the legal sphere, in church, in broadcasting, in universities, and in a variety of businesses) and celebrates those choices.

How to view this exhibit:

Click a year range at the top of the page to view a drop-down list of panels.  Choosing a panel from the list will display the images within that panel as well as a description of each image.  Click on any image to get a larger view.