My research demonstrates how Canada became one of the world’s most consumer oriented nations, with the ninth highest level of consumer spending per household in the world. It also highlights the consequences of Canadian consumer activity.
My first book, Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada (UBC Press, 2011), examines how, why, and with what consequences mass retail emerged in northern North America. It charts the rise between 1890 and 1940 of Canada’s three largest department stores – Eaton’s, Simpson’s, and the Hudson’s Bay Company – and also probes the histories of such regional stores as Holman’s in Prince Edward Island, the Dupuis Frères in Quebec, and Spencer’s in British Columbia. Paying attention to class, race, gender, region, and ethnicity, and drawing from records as diverse as business documents, fiction, and government reports, this book argues that mass retail was a paternalistic institution that perpetuated social hierarchies. Despite this inequality, employees, shoppers, and critics fought to make mass distribution more democratic. In 2012, Retail Nation won the Pierre Savard Book Award from the International Council for Canadian Studies and the Best Book in Canadian Studies Prize from the Canadian Studies Network. It received an Honourable Mention from the Sir John A. MacDonald Prize from the Canadian Historical Association.
My second book, Consume Citizens: Women, Identity, and Consumption in the Early Twentieth Century, will be published in November 2019 by the University of Toronto Press. This monograph explores settler Canadian women’s consumer interests between 1890 and 1939. Using an intersectionalist feminist approach, it argues that white English and French speaking women portrayed themselves as “buyers of the nation.” Across the country, members of the National Council of Women, the Cercles de Fermières, the Housewives’ League, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and other women’s groups promoted consumer issues. Examining the motivations underpinning their activisms, “Citizen Consumers” reveals the gendered, racialized, and classed components of consumer advocacy.
Preliminary research for my third monograph is under way. This work explores the rise of the global food trade with particular reference to Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries. Issues of health, colonialism, and gender receive attention.
Finally, I have published several refereed articles and book chapters. One of these, “Crazy for Bargains: Inventing the Irrational Female Shopper in Modernizing English Canada” (Canadian Historical Review, December 2011), won the Hilda Neatby Prize for Best Article in Women’s History from the Canadian Historical Association.