Gender, ethnicity, and religion in the context of entrepreneurship : the Loewen lumber businessmen of Steinbach, Manitoba, 1877-1985
Mills, Rachel Joanne
In his survey of Canadian business, Michael Bliss sets out a study of the "interplay of enterprise and opportunity," the story of "people risking capital in the hope of profit." Historian Joy Parr contends that the history of business "is not comprehensible through the accumulation of capital and the recruitment of labour alone," and thus she attempts to "locate and understand the relationships among industry, domesticity and community." On the one hand my work is a traditional business history, a narration of a southeastern Manitoba Mennonite lumber enterprise in terms of capital investment, and the impact of new technologies and government policies. However, it is Parr's work, that considers the complexities, severalties, and simultaneity of identities, which provides the model for this study of the gender, ethnic, and religious identities of four generations of Loewen entrepreneurs within their workplace, home and community. Four generations of Cornelius Loewens lived in the Mennonite community of Steinbach Manitoba: Cornelius Wiens Loewen (C.W.), 1827-1893; Cornelius Bartel Loewen (C.B.), 1863-1928; Cornelius Toews Loewen (C.T.), 1883-1960; and Cornelius Paul Loewen (C.P.), 1926-1985. Each of the Corneliuses lived there with their families, and they participated in Steinbach's growth, from C.W. Loewen's second marriage in 1877 which brought him to Steinbach, to the death of his great-grandson C.P. Loewen in 1985. From the time that C.W. Loewen was a farmer, and C.B. Loewen was a seasonal sawmill owner, to the time when C.T. Loewen developed a commercial lumberyard and C.P. Loewen established a large, nationally-focused window manufacturing company, the Loewen lumbermen typified Steinbach's development from Mennonite village to significant business centre. This thesis argues that concomitant with these developments were new, negotiated, and reinvented gender, ethnic, and religious identities and social roles. This study narrates the business developments of the Loewen lumber enterprise, suggesting that as the Loewens moved from an agrarian existence to a large commercial venture, their cultural identities and social roles came to reflect their changing economic activity and the increasing interaction which the Loewens had with middle-class Manitoban, and Canadian society.