II-184955 | Mrs Barnett's dead child, Montreal, QC, 1911
Mrs Barnett's dead child, Montreal, QC, 1911
Wm. Notman & Son
1911, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
Keys to History
As the main role of the unions was to negotiate better wages and working conditions, some members decided to launch political action on behalf of wider objectives in the area of social justice. In municipal, provincial and federal elections labour candidates sought to focus the attention of the electorate and the main political parties on the evils afflicting Canadian society. Small workers' parties sprang up, and both the Socialist Party of Canada and the Social Democratic Party were born. The upper and middle classes now joined the struggle, concerned by the proliferation of slums and the spread of disease as well as the growing likelihood of social disorder. There developed a generalized reformist movement referred to as «progressivism».
This photograph shows the dead body of Mrs. Barnett's son.
At the start of the century Montreal was the worst city in North America in terms of diseases and infant mortality. Working-class neighbourhoods were particularly affected, although middle-class homes were not spared.
In 1911 in Montreal one baby in three died before its first birthday. The mortality rate among older children was also high. But by now, fortunately, the reformist campaign was beginning to produce results.
The main cause of death was diseases of the digestive system. Contamination of food, water and milk accounted for much of the problem.