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Banner: Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience
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Free From Local Prejudice
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Domestics Policy

by Ellen Scheinberg, historian

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada accepted only three classes of immigrants: farmers, farm labourers and domestic servants. The prospects of foreign women leaving home for Canada were limited: they could come as either a wife or a domestic. The work was arduous and a definite stigma was attached to service. However, for many working-class women who chose to come to Canada, it represented an escape from economic woes. One of the most pressing issues of the day was the so-called "servant problem," which left many Canadian middle-class urban and rural households without adequate help. In response, the Canadian government developed an immigration policy intended to draw British women to the Dominion, that targeted single women, ages 17 to 35. This policy would have an impact on the number of women entering the country as domestics. Before the First World War, 75 percent were from the British Isles. In 1904, 2,523 women entered Canada as domestics. This figure rose to 4,467 in 1906 and continued to rise until the Depression.

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