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  • Households of Faith: Family, Gender, and Community in Canada, 1760–1969
  • Brian Clarke
Households of Faith: Family, Gender, and Community in Canada, 1760–1969. Edited by Nancy Christie. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2002. Pp. xiv, 381. $75.00 clothbound; $27.95 paperback.)

Among historians of the English-speaking world studying the family and gender relations the now-standard interpretation of the transformation of gender relations in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, most fully articulated by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall in their landmark British work Family Fortunes that appeared in the late 1980's, goes something like this: the simultaneous rise of capitalism and evangelicalism led to the creation among the middle classes of a new form of marriage, the companionate marriage, a relationship that on the one hand valued individual identity and on the other intense affective ties among family members. This development was in turn accompanied by the emergence of separate spheres, the domestic sphere dominated by women, and that outside of the home by men. Recently, family and gender historians have developed substantial revisions to this interpretation, and the authors of this volume offer a major contribution to this endeavor in the Canadian context, beginning with the issue of the nuclear family and the rise of individualism.

In his examination of the Roman Catholic parish in rural, French-speaking Quebec during the late seventeenth through to the early nineteenth century, Ollivier Hubert rebuts John Bossy's influential view that Tridentine Catholicism resulted in individualism. Rather, he argues the nuclear family was a prime agent through which the clergy inculcated Tridentine belief and practice, a strategy that relied upon communal pressure and traditional collective identities. Family ties also proved salient for religious behavior in the nineteenth century. In her statistical study of church affiliation as reported in the census returns for the mid-nineteenth-century parish of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Hannah M. Lane [End Page 365] traces how denominational affiliation was no mere individual choice but instead followed family ties, a pattern that Christine Hudon reveals existed among a French-speaking Protestant community in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

The concept of separate spheres, which it was argued mainly relegated women to maternal and domestic roles, has not fared so well either. J. I. Little discovers that for the Reverend James Reid, an Anglican ministering in Quebec's Eastern Townships in the early 1800's, a companionate marriage co-existed with the exercise of patriarchal authority, particularly when it came to the raising and education of children. Marguerite Van Die in her study of the small, mid-Victorian Ontario town of Brantford shows how women's participation in evangelical churches enabled them to secure a prominent place in the public life of their community. Likewise, Kenneth L. Draper examines women's interdenominational organizations in London, Ontario, and their engagement in urban moral reform and religious renewal.

The ways in which various cultures understood gender also shaped how men and women responded to clerically defined religious norms and approved cultural practices. Susan Neylan shows how Christian missionaries' strategy to make the nuclear family the norm among aboriginal peoples had the unintended consequence of enabling British Columbia's Tsimshian converts to strengthen their clan system, and thereby retain their matrilineal ties. Enrico Carlson Cumbo argues that Italian men in Ontario's Toronto-Hamilton region during the early nineteenth century by and large rejected official forms of Catholic practice (which women tended to follow in addition to their extensive range of unofficial, family-based religious observances) but still considered themselves to be fully Catholic and so appropriated Catholicism on their own terms, most notably in their enthusiastic celebrations of their home villages' patronal feast day. Moving into the first two decades of the twentieth century, Patricia Dirks looks at how shifting understandings of masculinity led mainstream Protestant churches to co-operate with one another in developing religious education programs for male adolescents. Growing anxiety over the growing feminization of their membership, she argues, spurred church leaders to transform their Sunday School curriculums so that teen-age boys could successfully weather the storms of adolescence and grow up to become upright church members. Michael...


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pp. 365-367
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