In this section, we examine women's work in central Alberta. One of the main attributes that characterized their work right from the early pioneer days was variety. A woman was expected to be a "Jill of all trades;" she was responsible for the cooking, including bread and butter making, cleaning, care of the children, laundry, clothes making, gardening and helping out on the fields. Often women were also largely responsible for the religious, educational and medical well being of their families and communities.
Florence Fay Jones-Farnham
She was a hard-working and kind woman, who was appreciated by her immediate family and neighbours. Her devotion to her children was exemplary and brought out incredible resourcefulness. She would "take in" laundry, work for threshing crews, keep chickens and other animals, as well as seeking refuge in the Central Alberta "bush," where she would cook at sawmills.
However, it was believed that women's work should still be mainly within the domestic or private sphere. A woman's place was in the home, where it was her responsibility to maintain an orderly and comfortable home to which her husband would return every night from his work in the outside world. Although this domestic labour was seen as vital to the stability of the family and of society, it was unpaid. For the most part, the only time a woman was expected to earn a wage was when she was young and when her family's financial state demanded that she take work outside the home often as a domestic servant.
With the World Wars, the Depression and urbanization, however, women's work changed. The emergence of new professions, dominated by women, like nursing, as well as women's entrance into professions previously dominated by men, like factory work, meant the rise of a woman's paid work force. Of course, this created new challenges for women who were often expected to take on the double duty of domestic and wage work. Domestic labour itself also changed during this period with the mechanization of many of its processes. At the same time, however, while machines were supposed to be making women's work easier in the home, expectations on this work were increasing. In this section, therefore, we will explore the transformation of Albertan women's work and the often the contradictory effects it had on their lives.