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Julia Smith

Position: 

Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow 2017-18

Biography: 

Julia Smith has an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University and an M.A. and B.A. Hons. in History from Simon Fraser University. Her research interests include labour studies, Canadian history, political economy, and gender and women's studies. In particular, she studies the history and politics of women’s labour activism in Canada.

Her research explores how class and gender intersect in workers’ struggles to improve their lives. Julia has published articles on feminist union organizing and labour relations in the Canadian airline industry. Her current research projects include a study of efforts to establish unions for bank workers in the twentieth century and an analysis of the different politics, strategies, and experiences of women who attempted to advance gender equality through and within the Canadian labour movement. In addition, she is working on co-authored projects on labour relations in the Canadian airline industry and the British Columbia child care sector.

Julia is also a member of the Graphic History Collective and co-editor of Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle (Between the Lines, 2016).

Research Activities: 

Labour Feminists in Western Canada

This project will examine the different politics, strategies, and experiences of women who tried to advance gender equality through and within the labour movement in Western Canada between 1960 and 1990. The term “women’s movement” is often used to describe feminist activity; however, distinct differences exist between the people and groups who engage in feminist activism. Scholars have documented how women used unions and labour organizations to improve their wages and working conditions, but there have been few studies of the independent feminist unions and labour organizations that women established to foment social change beyond the workplace. Moreover, we know little about the regional dimensions of the “second wave” of feminist activism that occurred in Canada in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. What factors contributed to the establishment of independent feminist unions in British Columbia in the early 1970s? Why did they spread to Saskatchewan but not Alberta? How did female labour activists in Alberta work to address gender inequality in Canadian society during this period? By answering these questions, this project will provide a much-needed regional analysis of labour feminism, contribute to the international scholarship on the diversity of feminist and union activism in the twentieth century, shed light on historical and contemporary problems concerning women, work, and the Canadian labour movement, and deepen our understanding of how people organize for social change.

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