Title Purchasing Power
Subtitle Women and the Rise of Canadian Consumer Culture
Author Donica Belisle
ISBN 9781442629110
List price USD 29.95
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 304
Book size 159 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2020
Original publisher University of Toronto Press
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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Review of the book:

"Drawing on rich archival research, Donica Belisle has written a fascinating consumer history of Canada, focusing on women’s contributions before World War Two. This well-written study explores the links between citizenship and consumption, detailing the ways that white British practices were normalized as "Canadian" and the role that women played in the formation of white Canadian nationalism in the early twentieth century. Belilse’s work offers a more nuanced understanding of the periodization of North American consumer society. Analyzing twentieth-century women’s "prosumer" activities such as cooking, sewing, and knitting, as well as diverse Canadian women’s efforts on behalf of consumer-oriented social movements, Belisle demonstrates the centrality of consumption to Canada’s cultural, economic, and political life. Her book is a welcome addition to recent scholarship that is working toward breaking down the artificial barriers between consumption and production."

—Vicki Howard, University of Essex, United Kingdom, author of From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Stores (Penn Press, 2015).


Exploring the roots of Canadian consumer culture, Purchasing Power uncovers the meanings that Canadians have attached to consumer goods. Focusing on women during the early twentieth century, it reveals that for thousands of Canadians between the 1890s and World War II, consumption was about not only survival, but also civic expression.

Offering a new perspective on the temperance, conservation, home economics, feminist, and co-operative movements, this book brings women’s consumer interests to the fore. Due to their exclusion from formal politics and paid employment, many Canadian women turned their consumer roles into personal and social opportunities. They sought solutions in the consumer sphere to isolation, upward mobility, personal expression, and family survival. They transformed consumer culture into an arena of political engagement.

Yet if Canadian women viewed consumption as a tool of empowerment, so did they wield consumption as a tool of exclusion. As Purchasing Power reveals, Canadian women of privileged race and class status tended to disparage racialized and lower income women’s consumer habits. In so doing, they constructed notions of taste that defined who – and who did not – belong in the modern Canadian nation.


List of Figures

Introduction: Canadian Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective 

Chapter 1. More Money for Mother: Temperance and the Rise of Sober Consumer Culture

Chapter 2. Shopping for Victory: Consumer Citizenship during the Great War

Chapter 3. Training the Consumer Citizenry: Postsecondary Home Economics Curricula

Chapter 4. Rural Consumer Citizens: Consumption in the Canadian Women’s Institutes

Chapter 5. For Whom Do We Dress? Fashion in the Early-Twentieth-Century Women’s Press

Chapter 6. Challenging Capitalism? Co-ops, Housewives’ Leagues, and the Limits of Collective Buying 

Conclusion: Empowerment and Exclusion: The Meanings of Consumption in the Early Twentieth Century

About the Author:

Donica Belisle is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Regina.

Target Audience:

People interested in Canadian history and gender studies.


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