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The Social Origins of the Welfare State

Quebec Families, Compulsory Education, and Family Allowances, 1940-1955

By Dominique Marshall
Translated by Nicola Doone Danby
Subjects Language Arts & Disciplines, Translation, Political Science, Social Services, Social Policy, History, Canadian History
Series Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204522, 300 pages, October 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586646, 300 pages, April 2011

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Social Origins of the Welfare State: Québec Families, Compulsory Education, and Family Allowances, 1940–1955 by Dominique Marshall, translated by Nicola Doone Danby



Chapter 1
The Drafting of Laws: Social Movements and Legislation

Adélard Godbout and the Provincial Compulsory School Attendance Act of 1943: Liberal Reformism, “Managerial Reformism,” and Clerical Agriculturalism

The Failure of the 1943 Provincial Family Allowances Act

Mackenzie King and the 1945 Federal Family Allowances Act

Maurice Duplessis, Provincial Autonomy, and Social Policies

The Industrial and Commercial Establishments Act

Chapter 2
Implementing the New Laws: Institutionalization of New Rights

The Consolidation of the Department of Public Instruction: Statistics and Centralization

School Boards, the Department of Labour Inspectors, and the Montréal Juvenile Court

The Institution of Family Allowances and the Federal Government’s “Administrative Revenge”

Chapter 3
The Significance of Children's Universal Rights: Official Views on Poverty and the Family

Poverty and Collective Responsibility

The Question of Children’s Autonomy

The Autonomy of Poor Parents

Chapter 4
The Evolution of the Status of Children: Between the New Official Norms, Market Changes, and the Cultural World of Parents

The Progress of Schooling

The Decline of Juvenile Labour in Industry and Commerce

The Decline of Labour for Farmers’ Sons

The Change in Parents’ Responsibilities and Prerogatives

The Increase in Children’s Autonomy

Chapter 5
Forgotten by Education and Welfare: The New Faces of Poverty and Juvenile Labour

The Failure of Government Advice and the Discarding of Abnormal Families

The Survival of Juvenile Labour: Market Insufficiencies and the Persistent Needs of Families

The Development and Tolerance of Exceptions to Universal Rights: Sons of Self-Sufficient Farmers, Girls of Disadvantaged Homes, and Ghettos of Paid Juvenile Labour

The Rigidity of the School Structure, Children’s Persistent Needs, and the New Conceptions of Abnormal Childhood

Chapter 6
The Transformation of the Political Culture of Families

The Maintenance and Dissipation of the War Consensus

Traditional Means of Defending Parents’ Rights and the New Struggles for Democracy

School Boards and the Struggle against the Centralizing of Social Institutions

Social Policy and the Constitution

The Quiet Revolution, State Formation, Nationalism, and Family Values





The Social Origins of the Welfare State traces the evolution of the first universal laws for Québec families, passed during the Second World War. In this translation of her award-winning Aux origines sociales de l´État-providence, Dominique Marshall examines the connections between political initiatives and Québécois families, in particular the way family allowances and compulsory schooling primarily benefited teenage boys who worked on family farms and girls who stayed home to help with domestic labour. She demonstrates that, while the promises of a minimum of welfare and education for all were by no means completely fulfilled, the laws helped to uncover the existence of deep family poverty. Further, by exposing the problem of unequal access of children of different classes to schooling, these programs paved the way for education and funding reforms of the next generation. Another consequence was that in their equal treatment of both genders, the laws fostered the more egalitarian language of the war, which faded from other sectors of society, possibly laying groundwork for feminist claims of future decades.

The way in which the poorest families influenced the creation of public, educational, and welfare institutions is a dimension of the welfare state unexamined until this book. At a time when the very idea of a universal welfare state is questioned, The Social Origins of the Welfare State considers the fundamental reasons behind its creation and brings to light new perspectives on its future.



  • Commended, Sir John A. Macdonald Prize for best book in Canadian history, Canadian Historical Association 1999
  • Winner, Prix Jean-Charles-Falardeau, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences 1998


``The Social Origins of the Welfare State provides a richly detailed historical analysis of the implementation of some of Canada's most important social programs of [the 1940s]. ... This book is an English translation of the 1997 prize-winning publicaiton, Aux origines sociales de l'Etat-providence, a monograph [that] . .. won tremendous acclaim for being innovative in tracing the political and ideological revolutions in social thinking that gave rise to the welfare state and a collective consciousness that poverty was the business of bureaucrats and the state. ... Shaped as it was by 1980s and 1990s concerns over the battering of the welfare state at the hands of deficit-obsessed governments, this book draws our attention to the political debates and actors that shaped early thinking on such issues as universality and children's rights. While compulsory schooling remains firmly entrenched for teenagers, mid-twentieth century arguments favoring accessibility-- low or no tuition fees--in higher education were abandoned by governments in the last ten years and `baby boomers,' as Family Allowance came to be called, withered in 1992 into a `non-universal tax credit. ' Given the recent political hostility to welfare programs, returning to an era when state responsibility for the welfare of its citizens was not a disparaged idea, is edifying. ... [This book also] shows how working-class parents were asked to conform to an official sense of normalcy in exchange for new social benefits for their children. ... [O]ne could argue, [this] was a work of family history but it invites us today to think about the location of children's history relative to the histories of the family, the state, and human rights. ''

- Tamara Myers, H-Childhood, October 2007

``At a time when the very idea of a universal welfare state is questioned, The Social Origins of the Welfare State considers the fundamental reasons behind its creation and brings to light new perspectives on its future. ''

- Adolescence, Vol. 43, No. 169, Spring 2008

``While Marshall's orientation is primarily political, her profound knowledge of other historical subfields such as family history, result in a rich, sophisticated and contextualized analysis. Even if contemporary policy makers failed to notice, Marshall never treates families as a unit with undifferentiated share interests for all family members. After nearly ten years from its initial publication the book remains the standard account. ... While its explanation of policy narrative is useful, the book's exploration of elite, political and popular responses to compulsory schooling and family allowances continues to be particularly compelling and original. .. Her concurrent examination of both a federal and provincial policy remains utterly unique in Quebec scholarship and is a model for others to follow. English-language readers are fortunate to have this important book finally made available to them in a readable translation by Nicola Doone Danby. ''

- Suzanne Morton, Journal of Social History, Vol. 42, No. 13, Fall 2008

``It is worthwhile devoting effort to studying the materials and ideas Marshall presents, since her work sheds light on matters of interest today—federal-provincial relations, poverty, state surveillance, and agency of individuals and professionals. ... The original version won the 1998–1999 Prix Jean-Charles-Falardeau as the best French-language book in the social sciences. Its publication in English is welcome and important, since Marshall provides a model of how to research and interpret social policy formation, organization, and effects in a social and political context. ''

- Paul Gingrich, Histoire sociale–Social History, Vol. XLI, #81, May 2008