MP-1980.32.1.233 | Rural children with patched clothes, St. Antoine, Gaspe Peninsula, QC, about 1930

Rural children with patched clothes, St. Antoine, Gaspe Peninsula, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on paper - Gelatin silver process
6 x 8 cm
Gift of Mrs. Charles W. Wagner
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  History (944) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

In Central and Eastern Canada, many farms were on land that was ill-suited to agriculture. Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula offered many examples: farms located on the Canadian Shield or near its edge. Most farmers were in debt, and poverty was an ever-present fact of life.

Clothes were worn until they fell apart; shoes were rarely used during the summer months. Diets that were short of necessary vitamins and minerals undermined health. Good medical care was difficult to obtain.

For decades Quebec governments saw no need to do much for farmers. This changed after the Union nationale (UN), led by Maurice Duplessis (1890-1959), took office in 1936. Elected on a platform stressing industrial, financial and agrarian reform, the UN ignored many of the promises it had made but did increase the aid given to farmers.

  • What

    During the Depression, hundreds of thousands of Canadian farm families still lacked electricity.

  • Where

    The Gaspé Peninsula is in eastern Quebec, on the south shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. St. Antoine is a tiny community in that region.

  • When

    This photo was taken in 1930, at the start of the Depression, indicating that these children had long been poor.

  • Who

    Philippe Panneton (1895-1960), pen name "Ringuet", gave an unflinching account of Quebec farm life, from the 1890s into the Depression, in his 1938 novel Trente Arpents (Thirty Acres).