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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 History, Canadian History, Political Science, Social Services, Social Policy, Language Arts & Disciplines, Translation
Series Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204522, 300 pages, October 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586646, 300 pages, April 2011
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554580828, 300 pages, October 2006

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


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, 2008 April