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Book Reviews 373 Redekop notes how the experiences of Mennonite women sometimes reflected larger trends in Canadian society. For example, the postwar popularity of Mennonite women's groups was in keeping with renewed attention to domesticity throughout the country, and the 1970s decline in membership was tied to married women's increased participation in the labour force. She is interested in change over time, and the questions she raises about declining interest in women's organizations are intriguing, not just for this church, but for other traditional women's groups undergoing the same demographic trends. What were women demonstrating during the past twenty-five years by their aversion to membership? In part, it was a reflection of sociological change, because working women were more likely to donate money than timeconsuming handwork or home baking, as their grandmothers had done. But it was also about feminism. Redekop titillatingly refers to an article published during the Friedan era which asked, 'Is there a Mennonite feminine mystique?' Did hesitation about joining up mean that some Mennonite women had begun to 'think in disparaging ways' about traditional women's groups, pushing for shared leadership inside the church rather than settling for gender exclusive parallels? As twentieth-century secularism advanced, it is also conceivable that these women were giving up more of their heritage than just the use of the German language. Redefinitions of work, feminism, and spirituality were under way, and expressions of mission, aid, and service could not remain static. In only 130 pages of text, this ambitious book sweeps through almost as many years (1874-1995), often leaving the reader wanting more. The first chapter has interesting potential for classroom use because it is written like an itemized catalogue ofrecent historiographic developments. That discussion could give students a useful vantage point from which to explore the growing field of women and religion through the lens of this Mennonite case study. LINDA M. AMBROSE Laurentian University For Home and Country: The Centennial History ofthe Women's Institutes in Ontario. LINDA M. AMBROSE. Guelph: Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario 1996. Pp. 256, illus. $35.00 In her history of the Women's Institutes in Ontario, Linda Ambrose provides a fascinating glimpse into the workings ofan established rural women's voluntary organization. A wonderful by-product of her research are insights into the changing female face of rural Ontario. 374 The Canadian Historical Review Ambrose documents and celebrates the work of the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario (Fw10) during its first 100 years. Beginning with the founders and ending with an exploration of the future of the Women's Institutes, Ambrose encounters a 'world of women's culture, a portrait of rural life' that urban academic historians seldom see. What an interesting picture it is. The work of women's voluntary organizations in the formation of our rural communities must not be underestimated. Indeed, the founding of the Women's Institutes in 1897 at Stoney Creek, Ontario, launched a worldwide movement. In Canada, the Women's Institutes gave rural women opportunities to expand their homemaking skills and knowledge, develop their leadership potential, and work with other women towards common social and economic goals. Women's Insti- .tutes celebrations enhanced the social life of many communities, and the physical landscape was altered by the construction of branch meeting rooms. An organization is never only one kind of accomplishment. My work on the Jubilee Guilds of Newfoundland and Labrador, the foremother of the Newfoundland and Labrador Women's Institutes, shows complex processes at work. Class and religious boundaries were breached, and traditional gendered divisions of labour challenged. Education programs promoted class-based ideologies of self-help and self-reliance. A Women's Institute motto from Ontario links homemaking and nation-building: 'A nation cannot rise higher than the level of its homes.' The upper-class women founders ofthe Jubilee Guilds used this motto to promote their work in the 1930s. Through thoughtful and deliberate practices, these women actively engaged in state formation long before Newfoundland became part of Canada. The Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario is also more than one kind of organization. Ambrose finds that it is not fully traditionalist or feminist-activist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 373-376
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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