Radical Housewives: Price Wars and Food Politics in Mid-Twentieth-Century Canada
Published: February 2019© 2019
312 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in, 25 b&w illustrations
Radical Housewives is a history of Canada’s Housewives Consumers Association. This association was a community-based women’s organization with ties to the communist and social democratic left that, from 1937 until the early 1950s, led a broadly based popular movement for state control of prices and made other far-reaching demands on the state. As radical consumer activists, the Housewives engaged in gender-transgressive political activism that challenged the government to protect consumers’ interests rather than just those of business while popularizing socialist solutions to the economic crises of the Great Depression and the immediate postwar years.
Julie Guard's exhaustive research, including archival research and interviews with twelve former Housewives, recovers a history of women’s social justice activism in an era often considered dormant and adds a Canadian dimension to the history of politicized consumerism and of politicized materialism. Radical Housewives reinterprets the view of postwar Canada as economically prosperous and reveals the left’s role in the origins of the food security movement.
List of Illustrations
1 Price War: Housewives Organize in the Great Depression
2 Housewife-Patriots and Wartime Price Controls
3 Fighting for the Working Class: The Struggle for Postwar Price Controls
4 Mothers, Breadwinners, and Citizens
5 Citizen Consumers or Kitchen Communists?
6 "Reds," Housewives, and the Cold War
"In her book, Guard tells a fascinating story of this little-known but very influential movement in mid-twentieth-century Canada."Joel Trono-Doerksen, Canada’s History
"Housewives rarely get the attention they deserve. Julie Guard challenges that recurring contempt in this path-breaking volume. Homemaking women have not always been patsies when it comes to radical politics. Far from domestic goddesses, many have been thoughtful and brave observers of the world around them. From the Great Depression to the 1950s, Canada’s Housewives Consumers Association channelled popular resistance to capitalism’s poverty-making regime. More than the CCF or the Communist Party, and far, far more than mainstream parties, it rallied Canadians to demand a fair deal after the depredations of depression and war. While it fell victim to character assassination and scare-mongering by Cold Warriors in the RCMP and political and economic elites, it left a history of courage and determination. Julie Guard’s Radical Housewives tells us why this is important."Veronica Strong-Boag, Historian and Historical Consultant, Professor Emerita, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice/Educational Studies, University of British Columbia
"This immaculately researched and wonderfully readable study breathes new life into the fields of labour, women’s, and left history, unsettling many a conventional account and complicating far-too-simple narratives about maternal feminism, consumer activism, and Canadian communism. In all these ways, and many more, Radical Housewives is an extraordinary achievement – an important milestone in the writing about Canada’s postwar history."Ian McKay, L.R. Wilson Chair in Canadian History, McMaster University
- Commended - CHA Canadian Committee on Women’s History Book
- Short-listed - The 2020 Manitoba Book Awards
- Winner - 2021 Errol Sharpe Book Prize:
awarded by The Society for Socialist Studies