The Way We Worked: The House of Industry

While extreme poverty is harrowing in any day and age, the poor of 19th-century Canada had extremely limited options. Since neither unemployment insurance nor general welfare assistance existed at the time, the destitute often became vagrants or inmates of a workhouse, formally known as a House of Industry.

The goal of this type of institution was not only to provide the poor with work. Directors of one House hoped that the labour of residents would allow the place to become self-sustaining and reduce the number of visible beggars:

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Martina Hardwick
Martina Hardwick, who holds a doctorate in history, is a freelance writer in Kingston, Ontario.

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