Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


It is widely recognized that the practice of agriculture is a highly gendered activity, with traditional roles for women centring around the concept of the agricultural helpmate. The most non-traditional role played by women is that of a farm owner or operator, directing a farming venture. This group has become more noticeable as agricultural restructuring progresses and the number of male farmers declines, yet relatively little detailed information exists about them, or the farms they operate. Furthermore, relatively little is known about how the traditional gender relations of agriculture influence the daily lives of female farmers, who must live and work within the social settings of farming communities.;This study seeks to bridge this gap through a combined methodology. Part One of the research draws upon untabulated census data to provide background data on female farm operators. Data from the 1971, 1981 and 1986 Canadian censuses of agriculture and population are used to determine the characteristics of female farmers and their farms, and to assess how these characteristics have changed over time. Part Two of the study, on the other hand, explores the everyday world of female farmers through personal interviews, thus adding the human dimension to the statistical profile.;Analyses of census data from the 15 year time span revealed that female farmers share many characteristics in common with their male colleagues, but also differ from them in some interesting ways. For instance, beyond the dominant commodity types in a region, female farmers are far more likely to be found with certain other kinds of farms, such as Miscellaneous Specialty enterprises, a category which includes horse, goat, sheep, rabbit and greenhouse or nursery operations.;In terms of their socio-economic characteristics, female farmers are a much more diverse group than male farmers. Nevertheless, they do identify common concerns that arise from their non-traditional role with a highly gendered agricultural system. These concerns frequently involve access to the types of agricultural resources that male farmers take for granted. Combined with these concerns is that fact that the gender relations of agriculture are maintained and perpetuated through myth-making. Three myths in particular (concerning technology, labour and strength) were evident throughout the accounts of the women intereviewed. These myths exert considerable influence upon daily life for female farmers, and directly affect how female farmers are viewed by others in the community, and how they view themselves and their work.



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