1988.38.10 | Street-Davidson Law Office, Newcastle, New Brunswick

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Street-Davidson Law Office, Newcastle, New Brunswick
November 1901, 20th century
Gelatine silver print mounted on card
17.3 x 22.6 cm
Gift of Mrs. Daisy May Davidson
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
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Keys to History

By the turn of the 20th century, women were demanding political and social reforms in order to increase their influence in society. Inspired by the suffragist movement in Great Britain, women's groups were formed in Canada to advocate for women's right to vote, the prohibition of alcohol, mothers' allowances, improvements in public health, and children's rights. Reform women's organizations in New Brunswick included the Local Councils of Women and the Maritime Women's Christian Temperance Union. Their progress, however, was undermined by the concept of "separate spheres," which held that women were gifted with superior domestic abilities and nurturing instincts while men were intellectually and physically superior. The public's general acceptance of this notion proved a considerable obstacle to reform. Women who needed to make a living sought socially acceptable employment as teachers and nurses. But, as this photograph shows, by the early 20th century women were also finding clerical and secretarial positions as men moved into the upper levels of business management. Still, in an attempt to teach working-class women appropriate domestic, middle-class values, many women's groups offered cooking and sewing classes.

  • What

    At the turn of the 20th century, women began working in offices as stenographers and clerks, positions previously held by men.

  • Where

    The small community of Newcastle is located along the Miramichi River, and is now part of the city of Miramichi.

  • When

    Mabel Penery French (1881-1955) became New Brunswick's first female lawyer in 1906. She overcame numerous obstacles, including the notion that, as a women, she was not a person and was thus unfit to practise law.

  • Who

    About 1878, Mrs. L.V. Longley, head of a Cincinnati, Ohio, school for stenographers, began promoting ten-fingered typing, as shown in this photograph, over the then standard two- fingered typing.