Purchasing Power: Women and the Rise of Canadian Consumer Culture

By Donica Belisle

© 2020

Exploring the roots of Canadian consumer culture, Purchasing Power uncovers the meanings that Canadians have attached to consumer goods. Focusing on women during the early twentieth century, it reveals that for thousands of Canadians between the 1890s and World War II, consumption was about not only survival, but also civic expression.

Offering a new perspective on the temperance, conservation, home economics, feminist, and co-operative movements, this book brings women’s consumer interests to the fore. Due to their exclusion from formal politics and paid employment, many Canadian women turned their consumer roles into personal and social opportunities. They sought solutions in the consumer sphere to isolation, upward mobility, personal expression, and family survival. They transformed consumer culture into an arena of political engagement.

Yet if Canadian women viewed consumption as a tool of empowerment, so did they wield consumption as a tool of exclusion. As Purchasing Power reveals, Canadian women of privileged race and class status tended to disparage racialized and lower income women’s consumer habits. In so doing, they constructed notions of taste that defined who – and who did not – belong in the modern Canadian nation.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Gender and History
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Illustrations: 14
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.9in x 9.1in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 9239

Book Formats

SKU# SP004294

  • PUBLISHED MAR 2020

    From: $22.46

    Regular Price: $29.95

    ISBN 9781442629110
  • PUBLISHED MAR 2020

    From: $63.75

    Regular Price: $85.00

    ISBN 9781442631137
  • AVAILABLE MAY 2020

    From: $22.46

    Regular Price: $29.95

Quick Overview

Why do Canadians consume? This book explores the meanings of consumption in early-twentieth-century Canada, demonstrating that many Canadians have long viewed consumer goods as central to their visions of belonging, identity, and citizenship.

Purchasing Power: Women and the Rise of Canadian Consumer Culture

By Donica Belisle

© 2020

Exploring the roots of Canadian consumer culture, Purchasing Power uncovers the meanings that Canadians have attached to consumer goods. Focusing on women during the early twentieth century, it reveals that for thousands of Canadians between the 1890s and World War II, consumption was about not only survival, but also civic expression.

Offering a new perspective on the temperance, conservation, home economics, feminist, and co-operative movements, this book brings women’s consumer interests to the fore. Due to their exclusion from formal politics and paid employment, many Canadian women turned their consumer roles into personal and social opportunities. They sought solutions in the consumer sphere to isolation, upward mobility, personal expression, and family survival. They transformed consumer culture into an arena of political engagement.

Yet if Canadian women viewed consumption as a tool of empowerment, so did they wield consumption as a tool of exclusion. As Purchasing Power reveals, Canadian women of privileged race and class status tended to disparage racialized and lower income women’s consumer habits. In so doing, they constructed notions of taste that defined who – and who did not – belong in the modern Canadian nation.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Gender and History
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Illustrations: 14
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.9in x 9.1in
  • Reviews

    "Drawing on rich archival research, Donica Belisle has written a fascinating consumer history of Canada, focusing on women’s contributions before World War Two. This well-written study explores the links between citizenship and consumption, detailing the ways that white British practices were normalized as "Canadian" and the role that women played in the formation of white Canadian nationalism in the early twentieth century. Belilse’s work offers a more nuanced understanding of the periodization of North American consumer society. Analyzing twentieth-century women’s "prosumer" activities such as cooking, sewing, and knitting, as well as diverse Canadian women’s efforts on behalf of consumer-oriented social movements, Belisle demonstrates the centrality of consumption to Canada’s cultural, economic, and political life. Her book is a welcome addition to recent scholarship that is working toward breaking down the artificial barriers between consumption and production."


    Vicki Howard, University of Essex, United Kingdom, author of From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Stores (Penn Press, 2015).
  • Author Information

    Donica Belisle is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Regina.
  • Table of contents

    List of Figures

    Introduction: Canadian Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective 

    1. More Money for Mother: Temperance and the Rise of Sober Consumer Culture 
    2. Shopping for Victory: Consumer Citizenship during the Great War
    3. Training the Consumer Citizenry: Postsecondary Home Economics Curricula
    4. Rural Consumer Citizens: Consumption in the Canadian Women’s Institutes
    5. For Whom Do We Dress? Fashion in the Early-Twentieth-Century Women’s Press
    6. Challenging Capitalism? Co-ops, Housewives’ Leagues, and the Limits of Collective Buying 

    Conclusion: Empowerment and Exclusion: The Meanings of Consumption in the Early Twentieth Century

Related Titles