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Social Science Women's Studies

Working Girls in the West

Representations of Wage-Earning Women

by (author) Lindsey McMaster

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2008
Women's Studies, Post-Confederation (1867-), British Columbia (BC)
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2008
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2008
    List Price

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As the twentieth century got under way in Canada, young women who entered the paid workforce became the focus of intense public debate. Young wage-earning women – “working girls” – embodied all that was unnerving and unnatural about modern times: the disintegration of the family, the independence of women, and the unwholesomeness of city life. These anxieties were amplified in the West. Long after eastern Canada was considered settled and urbanized, the West continued to be represented as a frontier where the idea of the region as a society in the making added resonance to the idea of the working girl as social pioneer.


Using an innovative interpretive approach that centres on literary representation, Lindsey McMaster takes a fresh look at the working heroine of western Canadian literature alongside social documents and newspaper accounts of her real-life counterparts. Working Girls in the West heightens our understanding of a figure that fired the imagination of writers and observers at the turn of the last century.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Lindsey McMaster teaches at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.

Editorial Reviews

Using an innovative mixture of literary and historical technique, McMaster's book successfully straddles the genres of literature, history, and gender studies to present an engaging look at young women in western Canada during the turbulent years of its explosive population growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.