Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters – Spring 2018

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/988313

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Page 25 of 43

Heritage Matters 24 The women behind the estates By Madison Hamilton Across the fabric of Canadian society, a definitive shift occurred between the 19th and 20th centuries that began a reconstruction of social gender roles as underscored by the women's suffrage movement. The stories of the families that occupied two Ontario Heritage Trust properties – Fulford Place and the Ashbridge Estate – are illustrative of these changes. While the historical narratives behind these properties are often patriarchal, focusing on the business and stature of these estates through the men who built them, it is the women's stories that convey a deeper history – a history that reflects the new women in society and their aspiration for change. Brockville's Fulford Place was built circa 1899-1901 by Canadian businessman George Taylor Fulford I and his wife Mary. A showpiece reflecting the family's social standing, the home served as the social hub for the political and business elite, and became a platform from which Mary exerted influence on society, business and politics through her social gatherings. Mary Fulford (1856-1946) was raised with the socially conservative values and traditions of the Victorian era, which emphasized expressions of proper female social etiquette. Despite this upbringing, Mary was a woman of strong and independent character. Her choice to marry someone of George's social standing, a working class businessman, would have been contrary to the social expectations of marriage many Victorian upper-class women faced. While her upbringing would have been reflected in the role she played as the matriarch of a prominent family, it was after George's death that she exercised her independent character to determine the legacy of Fulford Place and enhance the career of her son George II. Emily Moody was the head housekeeper at Fulford from the 1920s through the 1950s. Her story, too, reflects an independent female who fashioned a career for herself. As a young child, she emigrated from Ireland. After the death of her mother and her father's remarriage, Emily entered domestic service to help support her family. Domestic service had been a common path of entry into Canada and its labour markets for young immigrant women. By the 20th century, however, it was one of the female-dominated occupations that began Betty Burton (back row, top right corner) and her classmates of the RCAF 5th Equipment Assistants Course in St. Thomas.

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