Cover image for Spreading the light : work and labour reform in late nineteenth-century Toronto
Spreading the light : work and labour reform in late nineteenth-century Toronto
Burr, Christina Ann, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Toronto ; Buffalo : University of Toronto Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 254 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD8110.T62 B87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This Book Explores New Evidence On The Gendered Nature Of Working Class experience and on gender relations within the Toronto working class. Christina Burr uses case studies of the printing and garment industries to demonstrate how class, race, and especially gender were integral to the politics of work and labour reform in nineteenth-century Toronto.

One of the unique features of the study is Burr's use of workers' poetry, fiction, and political cartoons as source material. Language, symbols, and popular culture, in addition to economic factors, are used to understand how the working class experienced their world. Burr employs a deconstructionist cultural materialist approach to explain the strategies by which power relations were produced and reproduced by Toronto labour reformers.

In addition to being a valuable scholarly contribution, Spreading the Light is a focused study on an interesting topic, and as such will prove to be a popular book in Canadian social history, women's history, and labour history, courses.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In spite of occasional lapses into "deconstructionist" or "poststructuralist" jargon, this brief study (184 pages of text) offers an interesting and readable look at some key figures in the late- 19th-century labor movement in Toronto. The chapters on Phillips Thompson's use of popular literary genres and J.W. Bengough's political cartoons are both thorough and well documented. However, Burr's introductory assertion that the book "breaks new ground in the writing of the Canadian labour and working-class history by showing how class, gender, and race were integral to the politics of work and labour reform" remains unsubstantiated. The original investigations, done in the 1980s, may have been revelatory but seem pretty standard stuff for the 1999 publication date. One finds the obvious--the rhetoric of labor reformers (mostly male) tended to perpetuate existing gender relations of the larger social context--alongside the debatable--industrial capitalism (seems to have) created the concept of gender discrimination. Stories of labor's fight for equality, or for simple fair treatment, are compelling in and of themselves. Chanting the mantra of gender, race, and class seems superfluous. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. B. Way; University of Toledo