Bettina Bradbury suggests that the roles played by boys and girls are different in terms of timing, contours, and context. These differences were caused by several factors. This report explains some of the differences that boys and girls exhibited in Bettina Bradbury’s article, “Gender at Work at Home: Family Decisions, the Labour Market, and Girls’ Contributions to the Family Economy”. It will also highlight some of the factors that contributed to such differences, both at home and at work.
The first major difference between girls and boys or men and women in the wage labor is that the two gender groups worked in different sectors of the economy. Men and boys worked in industries including engineering, construction, shoemaking and unskilled labor (Bradbury, p. 217). On the other hand, women and girls worked as dressmakers and domestic servants. They also worked in some specific factory settings different from those of men.
Another difference was the amount of wages earned. Women and girls earned approximately half of what men earned. This is basically due to the roles played by the two groups of gender. Due to the wage difference in terms of different jobs (e.g. skilled and unskilled) and in terms of gender, the contours of family economy and the composition of the labor force was differentiated in terms of various factors including age and sex. The decision of who should become a secondary wage earner for the family was determined by such factors. In most cases, men earned more income than men, so they participated in wage labor more often than women and girls (Bradbury, p. 220). Wage rate was therefore a significant factor in determining the differences of labor participation between men and women or boys and girls.
The decision on who should participate in labor between boys and girls was also determined by ideologies, perceptions, and gut reactions within the family (Bradbury, p. 224). For example, sewing was preferred for girls because it was done at home. Girls and women stayed at home to perform domestic duties. Therefore, work that can be done at home such as sewing was performed by girls. Home-work for women also encouraged them to supervise their daughters at home; hence teaching them to perform domestic duties. The girls who remained at home could perform several duties at home, including sewing, stitching, housework, taking care of children, carrying water, and cooking.
Another factor confined women to domestic work and exposed men to factories was the fact that working in factories involved long hours, brutal disciplinary actions, and exhausting work. Because men were more muscular than women, they could endure such harsh conditions at factories; hence parents allowed their daughters to work at home in order to avoid such repulsive conditions of factories. For example, one of the supervisors in a cigar-making company owned by Mr. Fortier at Montreal beat an eighteen-year-old girl using a mould for failing to achieve a target of 100 cigars. This was just one of the many brutal punishments exercised on girls working in Montreal factories. This encouraged girls and their mothers to avoid working in such factories and stay at home instead.
The third difference between boys and girls in terms of wage labour in Montreal was that boys had more freedom than girls. This freedom for boys was caused by the wage labour that was offered to boys in preference to girls who remained at home to do domestic work. There were a higher percentage of girls living with their parents at the age of eighteen than boys because boys could find jobs that earned enough wages to pay for lodging and accommodation compared to girls who could not find well-paying jobs outside their homes. People could only be motivated by high wages to live their advantages of services offered at home; and boys could get such wages more easily than girls.
Boys and girls also showed some differences in terms of the roles they played. While boys played an important role in family economy through jobs and education, girls offered domestic labour and did not attend school. According to Bradbury, girls and women rarely engage in wage labour compared to boys who prefer working in order to support their families. This division of labour was caused by the choices made by families regarding their family economies. Boys were considered to be better auxiliary wage earners than girls even in poor work conditions.
Bradbury concludes that the oppression of girls is demonstrated in their roles. Such oppression is a result of capitalism and patriarchy. Men ensure that the inequality of women continues by keeping girls at home to support the women in domestic duties. The household work of women was often labour intensive and time consuming. Therefore, whenever girls attain a working age, they are used by their mothers to take care of children, sew, cook, clean, and perhaps perform small income-earning household work. The rate of formal labour force for girls was lower than that of boys because women need at least one helper at home; and such helpers are usually girls. Furthermore, patriarchal ideas, male pride, and economic pragmatism encouraged girls to offer domestic labour while boys entered the wage workforce.
Bradbury, B. (2010). “Gender at Work at Home: Family Decisions, the labour market, and Girls’ contribution to the Family Economy”. In Kealey, G.S. and Patmore, G. Canadian and Australian Labour History. Sydney: Australian-Canadian Studies.