Lara Campbell - Sir John A. Macdonald Prize Honourable Mention

October 01, 2010

The Canadian Historical Association, Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, for the best non-fiction work of Canadian history judged to have made the most significant contribution to an understanding of the Canadian past.

Lara Campbell, Honourable Mention, Respectable Citizens: Gender, Family, and Unemployment in Ontario's Great Depression.

As a carefully constructed and solidly documented work, Respectable Citizens focuses not only on the economic difficulties experienced by Ontario families during the Great Depression and the survival strategies and social protests engendered by these difficulties but also on how the redefinition of citizenship and the development of the liberal State were affected. This book, located at the crossroads of several historiographies, proposes an original interpretation of this dark period of Canadian history by stressing the interrelations between the public and private domains. It shows that domestic arrangements and the demands placed on the State on an individual or more organized basis grew out of a broadly accepted conception of gender relations founded on the breadwinner/housewife ideal and on a vision of individual rights related to membership in the Anglo-Celtic culture.

With diverse sources eloquently supporting its argumentation, Respectable Citizens posits, first, that in the name of their family duties defined in terms of gender, of their respectability as citizens of British descent, and of their belief in the work ethic, Ontarians demanded increased services and economic support measures from the State, and, second, that these considerations were incorporated into the implementation of social policies, starting with the Second World War. Based on the rich and nuanced analysis proposed by Lara Campbell, the 1930s appear to represent a transitional period leading to the establishment of the Canadian welfare state, with the Canadian public itself contributing to this process. These conclusions appear all the more relevant because the study is not limited to urban realities but also examines the conditions present in rural and remote areas. This work, which builds on a wide variety of sources and a series of concepts developed through feminist research and the new political history, constitutes a major addition to our knowledge of the 1930s and will certainly become a standard reference in understanding this decade and the one that followed. Congratulations Lara!

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