1996.335.47 | Crushing room, Johnson Mine, Thetford Mines, Qc, 1919
Crushing room, Johnson Mine, Thetford Mines, Qc, 1919
1919, 20th century
Gelatin silver process
10 x 13 cm
Gift of Mr. Georges W. Smith
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
Keys to History
During the First World War, the women of Europe and North America streamed into factories and workshops to replace the men who had gone off to war. Although the women were in a way a cheap source of labour, their increased presence on the labour market brought them a degree of emancipation. Quebecers obtained the right to vote in several countries. In Canada, they were granted suffrage in 1917, but only for federal elections. They did not obtain the provincial vote until 1940.
Cobbing, which consisted in sorting the ore by hand and hammering the rocks to separate the asbestos fibre, was done by women called cobbers.
Johnson at Thetford Mines was the company that employed cobbers the longest, right up until the final closing of its cobbing shed in 1963.
This photo could not have been taken any later than 1919, as it appeared in a book published that year in New York by the Asbestos and Mineral Corporation (known in Canada as the Asbestos Corporation of Canada Ltd.) which operated mines at Thetford Mines, Black Lake, East Broughton and Robertsonville in Quebec, as well as in South Africa. The book, with a print run of 1,000, was titled Asbestos: From Mine to Finished Product.
There were about thirty cobbers in the shed. Half of them were eighteen or nineteen years old. Those over twenty might remember the strike of 1915. On October 20, two days after the men, the women also decided to stop working. Their courage was unfortunately never rewarded, as the companies refused their demands, on the pretext that they were submitted too late.