"The females are better than two men in many cases, and not half the expense"

Commissioned by the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre, Hamilton, and the Ontario Federation of Labour for the exhibition A Century of Women and Work, 2007.

medium: 2 panels with photography and found text (digital prints, laminated and mounted on MDF board)
dimensions: each panel 24 inches high x 36 inches wide / 61 cm high x 91 cm wide.
collections: Government of Newfoundland & Labrador Provincial Art Bank, and the Maritime History Archive of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The text in this work is drawn from historical documents from 1900-1901 regarding the employment of female labour on fishing schooners that traveled seasonally from Newfoundland to Labrador. These documents, found in the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University, reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of their time.

Even so, it seems remarkable that in 53 pages of questionnaires, responses, reports, memorandums, charts, letters, and resolutions, there is no evidence that anyone asked the "females" what they thought of their working conditions and accommodations on board the vessels, or if there would be any "injurious effects" on them if female labour was prohibited. The enquiry was only concerned with "injurious effects" on the interests of the Labrador fishery. Indeed, the questionnaires that were sent — to clergymen, schooner owners, Preventive Officers, and the Societies of United Fishermen — were all printed with the salutation DEAR SIR.

My amazement doubled when I found that the solution proposed by the Fisheries Board was not to improve quarters for women and girls on the vessels, but to prohibit them from working on them. Many respondents, though, opposed this measure. Why? Because "cheap female labour is required" and "the fishery cannot pay a man to do a girl's work."

Marlene Creates, 2007