“Architectural incentives to immorality” unmarried women’s access to housing in Winnipeg, 1897-1929

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Brazeau, Anne
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In the late 19th century, Winnipeg’s white settler population was largely transient, male, young, and unmarried. A short-term alternative housing system catered to this population, underscoring their inability to establish themselves in family homes due to their transience and the lack of marriageable white settler women in the city. In response to this, state-sanctioned female emigration societies sponsored the passage of unmarried working-class women from Europe to correct Winnipeg’s gender imbalance and augment the white settler population. These female emigration societies created a short-term alternative housing system specific to unmarried women, which was employment-determined. The markers of employment-determined housing are proximity to the resident’s place of training or employment, subsidy to the cost of housing, and an austerity which reinforces a short-term tenancy. The influx of white settler women offered Winnipeg’s employers a lower-cost work force, allowing women to transition from employment-determined housing to independent housing (housing selected by and paid for at the discretion of the tenant). By examining unmarried women’s brief access to sanctioned home ownership through the establishment of Winnipeg’s short-lived red light district, as well as the on-set of prohibitive legislation to do with Winnipeg’s first (1904-1914) and second (1926-1929) apartment complex construction booms, I chart a rapid shift in attitudes regarding unmarried women’s socioeconomic freedom as measured through their access to housing.
Women, Housing, Apartments, Winnipeg