Mothering Citizens: Elite Women in Montreal, 1890-1914

Type of resource
Mothering Citizens: Elite Women in Montreal, 1890-1914
The author explores the activism of elite women in Montreal - Anglophone, Francophone, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Jewish - between 1890 and 1914. In the form of a collective biography, she observes the twenty elite women who comprise this study in their homes, in the rituals of their class, in the work of philanthropy, and in active engagement with their local community and the world beyond Montreal. The author maintains that these women had a vision for society that went beyond social reform or securing the vote for women; one that was based on their experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and religion. Maternalist ideology as adopted by these early activists, built a framework for a brighter future, a better city, and a stronger nation. The author argues that elite women twinned their role as mothers with their identity as citizens in order to create a realm of social and political influence for themselves. They placed the family unit as the nuclear centre of society and extended this concept as a model to the community, nation, and international world. As maternalists, these women believed that they, as wives, mothers and especially as citizens, had an important role to play in shaping society. Through shared gender and class identities, they forged bridges across ethnic and religious divides which in turn provided them with influence and power in Montreal and beyond. The author found that what emerges from the sources is that these women were far from passive or content to stay in the shadows. They were intentionally political in the way they thought about and engaged their lives as citizens. But there were limits to their influence and the women studied by the author had to carefully navigate these boundaries. The onset of the First World War served to aggravate tensions that had long been simmering beneath the surface to the point that cooperation disintegrated and their power that had derived from their unity was markedly diminished.
PhD dissertation
McGill University
# of Pages
Kirkland, Elizabeth. “Mothering Citizens: Elite Women in Montreal, 1890-1914.” PhD dissertation, McGill University, 2012.
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