Domestic Textile Production in Colonial Quebec, 1608-1840
David- Thiery Ruddel
National Museum of Science and Technology
In the early twentieth century, ethnographers and economic historians showed an interest in a variety of themes including gender roles and the early evolution of textile production. Most work since then has been ethnographically and museologically based, drawing on historical sources, such as household inventories and marriage contracts but also on artifacts, a largely unknown phenomenon to most historians. While museum curators and specialists in Quebec ethnography have emphasized the material remains of household cloth and the various steps in its fabrication, most economic historians have been primarily interested in agricultural and industrial productivity. Colonial historians, for example, use information about wool, flax and hemp in their arguments concerning self-sufficiency and commercial agriculture and rarely explore the ways in which households were organized to meet their daily needs. These historians have, therefore, neglected the role of female labour in the countryside, as well as women’s participation in the rural marketplace. Although woman’s work and clothing are also within the sphere of social history, the lack of sources and the fact that these subjects are usually treated within larger contexts has meant that cloth making and use have yet to receive the attention they deserve. After surveying the historiography related to home-made textiles, the author discusses the role of the domestic production of fabric in Quebec, as well as the subject of gender in the making of household cloth.