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"It Was a Woman's Job, I 'Spose, Pickin' Dirt Outa Berries": Negotiating Gender, Work, And Wages at Job Brothers, 1940-1950.

Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 2008, Fall, 23, 2

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BLUEBERRY PROCESSING AND EXPORT has been considered a minor activity in the economic life of Newfoundland and Labrador, yet this production supplied seasonal employment and income for significant numbers of women and men as pickers or processing labour in fish plants. While considerable attention has been given to the history of labour and economic development in Newfoundland (less on Labrador) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most has focused on fishers, technology, merchants and business operations, and the truck system. Post-World War II attempts to diversify and industrialize the economy, and produce "new" workers for the emerging industrial processes in Newfoundland in particular, have been explored as well. (1) In the last twenty years, historians have examined the history of St. John's female workers and their employment, (2) and Jessie Chisholm has made a considerable contribution to our understanding of male waterfront dock labour connected to fish plants in St. John's, especially in relation to work and the constitution of masculinity. (3) Fewer scholars have considered the traditions, workers, and work processes involved in industrialized processing operations. (4) The lesser-known business and seasonal organizational routines of fish processors, such as the fall production of blueberries for export to the United States after World War It, have not been addressed; nor have the social relations produced in the intersection of female and male work forces in these operations been sufficiently analysed. This essay explores the industrialized processing of blueberries at Job Brothers and Company fish and blueberry processing plant on the Southside Road in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Job Brothers, along with other plants in St. John's, processed berries in the fall. They employed women as the primary labour in processing, and male waterfront workers handled the "physical" tasks of moving the berries on the wharf and in the plant. This gendered division of labour at Job's and the everyday practices that shaped this division, embodied contested meanings of femininity and masculinity produced in, and through, workplace hiring procedures, and workers' talk about work and work processes. This essay examines worker negotiation of these practices, the meaning-making and definitions of "real" work, and the material reality of a consistently unequal wage structure for women and men as negotiated by the unions. Such gendered processes were not unique to Job Brothers in the postwar era. An industry and site-specific historical approach (5) to examining sex segregation allows us to understand more about these everyday practices and the individual and collective negotiations of workers and management in the fashioning of such a workplace and definitions of "real" work.

"It Was a Woman's Job, I 'Spose, Pickin' Dirt Outa Berries": Negotiating Gender, Work, And Wages at Job Brothers, 1940-1950.
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  • Category: Reference
  • Published: 22 September 2008
  • Publisher: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Faculty of Arts Publications
  • Print Length: 50 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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