Book Reviews

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.1983.tb00984.x
Date01 October 1983
Published date01 October 1983
Book
Reviews
ROXANA,
Ng.,
J.
RAMIREZ.
Immigrant
Housewives
in
Canada.
Toronto, 1981,
16
p.,
Report.
Copies are available from: The Immigrant
Women’s Centre,
348 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5TlS4,
Canada
($3,50)
A vividly written and theoretically well-founded
book
on
immigrant women (from Italy, Portugal
and Spain) in Canada. The interviews with
housewives and mothers which form the basis of
this report were conducted at the autonomous
‘Immigrant Women’s Centre’ in Toronto. Each
women was given an opportunity to express her-
self freely both in terms of language (each speak-
ing in her mother tongue) and with regard to her
intentions,
so
that the problems could be defined
from the women’s own point of view. As a result
of the interviews and of a social and political
analysis, the report arrives at the thesis that what
makes the women’s lives difficult are not,
as
is
the basic assumption of all government pro-
grammes, the ‘adjustment processes’ which last
for a period ofabout three years, nor the ‘cultural
changes’ due to immigration, but rather the
social organization of Canadian society, which
assigns to immigrant women, and especially to
those who do not speak English, only an inferior
position in its hierarchical scale.
Two factors are decisive in this respect: that of
organizational changes,
which radically alter the
quality of housework for the woman, thrust her
into
a
monetary economy dominated by wages
and consumption, and impose
on
her a time
schedule dictated by external factors such as
working hours, school hours, shop opening
hours, etc. leaving her alone
-
without any help
from neighbours
-
in face of her responsibilities.
With low wages
or
unemployment, dependence
on money quickly becomes
a
threat to existence,
and dependence on the husband’s money lowers
the value of housework and that of the woman
herself. Housewives, too, often take jobs in order
to mitigate an economic crisis, but they try to
organize this work in such a way
as
to avoid
having to neglect their housework.
The second factor responsible for the perma-
nent problems of immigrant women are
institu-
tionalized practices.
Under Canada’s immigra-
tion policies women can immigrate only if their
husbands can provide proof of being able to
support them. The dependence
on
the husband
for residence permit purposes lasts 10 years.
Immigrant women are not included in govern-
ment educational or social programmes. Their
isolation and dependence are ordained from
above. Those women who succeed in finding
jobs
-
ifthey do not speak English
-
are confined
to job ghettoes, to the lowest range of service
occupations
or
to unskilled jobs in industry,
where English is practically not required and
where they are thrown together with other wo-
men from their own countries.
What chances are open to these women des-
pite the difficulties?
If they have a job, it at least brings in a little
money and gives them the feeling that an inde-
pendent life may yet be possible. If they are
housewives at the same time, they have‘to learn
to organize their time and, in learning to find
their way through the bureaucracy, acquire a
minimum of self-confidence and self-assertive-
ness. Advisory organizations and autonomous
centres should support immigrant women in
these efforts and strengthen their consciousness
so
that they may learn to formulate their de-
mands, make use of state social services and
claim their rights.
DR. ALICE MUNSCHER
Deutsches Jugend Institut
Munich, (Fed. Rep.
of
Germany)
540

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