Toronto's Girl Problem: The Perils and Pleasures of the City, 1880-1930 by Carolyn StrangeToronto's Girl Problem: The Perils and Pleasures of the City, 1880-1930 by Carolyn Strange

Toronto's Girl Problem: The Perils and Pleasures of the City, 1880-1930

byCarolyn Strange

Paperback | May 25, 1995

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With the turn of the century came increased industrialization and urbanization, and in Toronto one of the most visible results of this modernization was the influx of young, single women to the city. They came seeking work, independence, and excitement, but they were not to realize these goals without contention.

Carolyn Strange examines the rise of the Toronto 'working girl,' the various agencies that 'discovered' her, the nature of 'the girl problem' from the point of view of moral overseers, the various strategies devised to solve this 'problem,' and lastly, the young women's responses to moral regulation. The 'working girl' seemed a problem to reformers, evangelists, social investigators, police, the courts, and journalists - men, mostly, who saw women's debasement as certain and appointed themselves as protectors of morality. They portrayed single women as victims of potential economic and sexual exploitation and urban immorality. Such characterization drew attention away from the greater problems these women faced: poverty, unemployment, poor housing and nutrition, and low wages.

In the course of her investigation, Strange suggests fresh approaches to working-class and urban history. Her sources include the census, court papers, newspaper accounts, philanthropic society reports, and royal commissions, but Strange also employs less conventional sources, such as photographs and popular songs. She approaches the topic from a feminist viewpoint that is equally sensitive to the class and racial dimensions of the 'girl problem,' and compares her findings with the emergence of the working woman in contemporary United States and Great Britain.

The overriding observation is that Torontonians projected their fears and hopes about urban industrialization onto the figure of the working girl. Young women were regulated from factories and offices, to streetcars and dancehalls, in an effort to control the deleterious effects of industrial capitalism. By the First World War however, their value as contributors to the expanding economy began to outweigh fear of their moral endangerment. As Torontonians grew accustomed to life in the industrial metropolis, the 'working girl' came to be seen as a valuable resource.

Carolyn Strange is a senior fellow in the Research School of Humanities at the Australian National University.
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Title:Toronto's Girl Problem: The Perils and Pleasures of the City, 1880-1930Format:PaperbackDimensions:300 pages, 8.99 × 5.97 × 0.88 inPublished:May 25, 1995Publisher:University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0802072038

ISBN - 13:9780802072030

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From Our Editors

Toronto's Girl Problem examines the rise of Toronto's 'working girl,' the various agencies that 'discovered' her and the young women's responses to moral regulation.

Carolyn Strange is assistant professor at the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto.

Editorial Reviews

'Carolyn Strange is to be commended for opening up a whole new vista of the history of Canadian women in urban contexts, in a scholarly yet highly readable and enjoyable manner.'

- Katherine M.J. McKenna - Canadian Journal of Urban Research