Dani’s Bistro

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Chew On This!

Chew On This! at Dani’s Bistro: Changing Roles of Women

The roles women have played in society have changed drastically, and still continue to change today. Traditionally expected to play matriarch, wife, mother, homemaker, and hostess, the opportunities available to women in which we are familiar with today were not accessible to women in the past.

The portrayal of women in media has changed too. From the traditional role of housewife to the encouragement of women to enter the workforce during the First and Second World Wars, to enfranchisement, to professional careers: the history of women’s advancement is the history of our community.

What changes in the roles of women can you detect from the photo set below?

“How Short is Too Short?”, 1950
STCM S1950.23.6.1

From the St. Catharines Standard in 1950: “How short is too short? The great sartorial debate of the 20th century. When trustee, Isabel Ross of Toronto yesterday complained cheer leaders’ skirts were too short, the morning paper illustrated their story with a picture of St. Catharines girls at the Red Feather tournament. So the battle scene this morning moved to the St. Catharines Collegiate where cheer leaders, other pupils, team, staff and Board of Education defended skirt lengths, longer than others at Red Feather fames.  Here, Edith Schellenberg demonstrates to Physical Instructress Pat Burgess that skirts of natty outfits are 15 inches long.  “You can’t buy a bathing suit that long, but they don’t seem to mind them,” said Edith.”

Lightning Fastner Ad, c. 1980
STCM 2003.65.14

A promotional ad for the lightening fasteners, know today as ‘the zipper’ invented by Swedish inventor Gideon Sundback. The City of St. Catharines became host to the first purpose built factory in Canada at 50 Niagara St. to manufacture this product. This ad is an example of a brand which promoted their products by using a Western ideal of female beauty. 

Women’s Gun Club, 1940
STCM S1940.181.1.1

Women were often encouraged to contribute to war efforts in a variety of ways. Women took advantage of these opportunities to learn new skills and to break with more traditional war-effort expectations, like knitting socks or organizing clothing drives. This photo shows a group of enthusiastic women participating in rifle training at .22 Rifle Club near Merritton at the time of the Second World War.

“Soft Hand of the Law”, 1982
STCM S1982.6.19.31

Motorcyclists and their clubs are no exception for the ‘stop-and-frisk’ procedure, even if they are out for a joy ride. A little less deliberate and systematic, a female officer performs a stop-and-frisk on one out of the three hundred motorcyclists from around Ontario and the United Sates hoping to enjoy his weekend hog run.    

Mechanic Training, Lincoln Motors, 1940
STCM S1940.5.10.1

Women participate in mechanic training at Lincoln Motors, 1940.

Crowing the Blossom Queen, 1939
STCM S1939.12.1.5

Every year on Blossom Sunday — usually the second Sunday in May — the roads were packed with tourists coming from the city to gaze in wonder at the blossoms. Those visitors also stayed to enjoy good food at our restaurants, and to shop at any of our stores that were designated as tourist attractions and therefore could be open on a Sunday. With this marvelous event came the annual announcing of the Blossom Queen. Young ladies vied for the position of Blossom Queen. Being crowned carried a great deal of honour and promised a busy year as the queen attended many events.