WOMEN AND CHILDREN, AN EXPLOITED, INVISIBLE AND IGNORED WORKFORCE
Generally, historians make little mention of women. However, they are half of the story.
WITHOUT GASPESIAN WOMEN, NO GASPESIAN MEN!
While the men are fishing, women and children treat the fish, and set it out to dry. The wives and their daughters also tend to the garden and the fields, care for the animals, bake, make preserves, and sew clothes...
Although there is little information about women in the official records of the time, it is possible to make some assumptions based on the reality of fishing communities elsewhere, such as in Newfoundland. There, between 1891 and 1921, it is estimated that women represent between 33 and 38% of the workforce in the industry.
The drying of fish requires a significant number of workers, so, it is of no surprise that, on average, 5 members of the same family are involved in the overall chain of production.
In the 19th century, industrialization affects all aspects of work, including in the fishing industry. Consequently workloads are greatly intensified.
However, the processing of cod is not really a factory production line. In the Gaspésie, the industry relies heavily on poor fishing families rather than on paid workers. This different relationship between owners and fishermen has a significant effect on the quality of the salted dried cod.
WOMEN KNOW THE VALUE OF THE FAMILY PRODUCT, SO, GREAT CARE IS TAKEN WITH THE COD THAT THEY PROCESS.
Priests impose their moral authority, even through confession, intervening in people’s private lives, and forbidding any form of birth control.
There is an explosion in the birth-rate with most French-Canadian families having more than 10 children
Culturally, the ‘Revenge of the cradle’ stands as an act of resistance to the influx of English-speaking settlers. However, this has a significant impact on the capacity of these families to make ends meet. As the saying goes, money isn’t the source of all happiness, but… For the families of the fishermen, caught in the credit system, dependence on the company means living in permanent poverty.
The Catholic Church, hand in hand with the bourgeoisie, contributes to their financial misery. However, the working class everywhere is beginning to take a stand against the established order.
PASPÉBIAC IS IN TUNE WITH THIS GLOBAL MOVEMENT.
CONDITIONS ARE RIPE FOR THE REBELLION...‘SA GRANDEUR’ JEAN AND HIS BROTHERS EDMOND AND HECTOR-LOUIS
The careers of the Langevin brothers are a good example of the power that the Catholic Church exercises on the daily lives of French-Canadians in the 19th century. Coming from a bourgeois family in Quebec City, the three brothers are very close and share the same conservative values which they promote vigorously.
EDMOND, during his life, will hold several key positions in the church hierarchy. His letters help us to understand his mindset. He zealously promotes respect for the established order. Concerning the Rebellion of the Métis, he notes:
“… the protection of society requires that we impress terror upon them”. Regarding Louis Riel in particular, he admits to “[despising] his career as much as the meaningless and ungodly ending of another so-called patriot, Louis-Joseph Papineau.” Ultramontane, he is alarmed at the “surging of the secular trend” and its “obvious infringement on the Church’s rights in the civil courts”. About the Liberals he adds: “They are tyrants… who have crushed the ecclesiastic influence in Canada.” Undoubtedly, his ideas inspire his brothers.
HECTOR-LOUIS, a lawyer close to John A. Macdonald, is known as one of the Fathers of Confederation and also as one of the main architects of the Residential School System designed to force the assimilation of the First Nation peoples.
JEAN, bishop of Rimouski from 1867 to 1891, is a disciple of Pius IX. Like that pope, he condemns the separation of Church and State. He is directly involved in the election of several conservative candidates, amongst them, Israël Tarte in the riding of Bonaventure. Paspébiac being in his diocese, it is of no surprise that his name features prominently in the 1886 rebellion. Officially, the local parish priests condemn the ‘Jersey’ companies, but in fact, they maintain a close relationship with the merchants who make significant donations to the parishes, and occasionally even deduct the tithe directly from a fisherman’s company bill. When the unrest begins in January 1886, the priests and the mayors are frightened. Very frightened. They write to ‘Sa Grandeur’ Jean Langevin.
AS TO THE REBELS, THE CHURCH CONTINUES TO HUMILIATE THEM FROM THE PULPIT.
POPE PIUS IX, whose pontificate lasted 32 years, (1846–78), is a crucial figure in the background of this history.
An ‘ultra-ultramontane’, he vehemently promoted and expanded the Church’s anti-liberal and anti-democratic dogma until his death. The Catholic clergy, terrified by the currents of progressive change, distrust Protestants but find it convenient to deal with them anyway since they often share a similar goal:
the control of social dissent. During the age of imperialism, ultramontanism is at the heart of Catholic opposition to the labour movement and to socialism.
PIUS IX’S views on servitude and slavery are typically Catholic in their fixation on the afterlife at the expense of choice and pleasure, especially for the poor. It is infinitely better to be Roman Catholic than either free or properly nourished.
The servitude of the Paspéyas is mildly regrettable, but justifiable for the good of their souls.
PARISH PRIEST OF PASPÉBIAC IN 1886
Born in St-Octave-de-Métis on August 17th 1843, he is ordained priest in Rimouski on May 25th 1872.
Parish priest of Paspébiac in 1877.
He retires in 1903 and dies in Québec City on the 11th September 1931.
Curé Larrivée is more inclined to maintain social order than to care for the well-being of his flock. In this, he follows the example of ‘SA GRANDEUR’ MONSEIGNEUR JEAN LANGEVIN.
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