MP-1978.187.15 | Quilt drying, Sous le cap Street, Quebec City, QC, ca. 1890

Quilt drying, Sous le cap Street, Quebec City, QC, ca. 1890
Louis Prudent Vallée
About 1890, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
Purchase from Dr. William P. Baker
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

A variety of reform movements were founded at the turn of the century aimed at improving the living conditions of Canadians, in particular those in poor and working-class neighbourhoods. The elite had traditionally believed that the poor were responsible for their own sorry lot in life and that they needed to pull up their bootstraps and help themselves. The reformers had a different perception. They believed that the actions of the poor were not the root cause of poverty: it was caused by a variety of factors. The reformers therefore concluded that the solution to poverty lay not just in changing people, but in changing society as a whole. And so they began to pressure politicians and other social leaders to clean up the urban environment, in particular through beautification projects and the creation of public parks and gardens.

  • What

    This photograph of an alleyway in a working-class neighbourhood shows the kind of problem the reformists wanted to alleviate: the small, rundown dwellings and lack of open space and greenery.

  • Where

    Even in less industrialized cities, such as Quebec City, working-class neighbourhoods were crowded.

  • When

    This photograph seems to have been taken during the day, when the women and children were at home while the men worked in factories.

  • Who

    Children were especially vulnerable. Between 1896 and 1914, the child mortality rate in Canada's largest cities varied from 160 (Toronto) to 260 (Montreal) deaths per 1,000 inhabitants.