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1930 photo of women at convocation.
Photo from City of Toronto Archives

This Side of Paradise

U of T grads and guests enjoy a University College garden party during Convocation 1930

On a glorious sunny afternoon on June 6, 1930, new U of T graduates and their guests convened for a garden party in the University College quadrangle. While this photograph features women grads, their male counterparts outnumbered them by at least four to one. In contrast, about 15 per cent more women than men earn degrees at U of T today.

At this university-wide convocation, there were only a few female grads from the science and commerce programs; many earned degrees in social work, occupational therapy, history and languages. Another popular program was household economics, which offered an eclectic assortment of courses. In the morning, the students might discuss Shakespeare’s revelations on human nature in English class, and then, after lunch, swing into a textiles lab to learn how to launder wool.

Earlier in this school year – on October 29, 1929 – the Wall Street stock market had crashed. Soon after, so did the dream of becoming a home-economics teacher. Schools often stopped hiring – even though they, and many employers, preferred hiring women because they would work for half the wages. Once a woman married, she’d likely quit (or be forced to quit) her job if her husband was employed. In the Great Depression it was considered unfair to have two breadwinners in one family.

But today was full of promise – and fun! In the evening, the new grads might attend a reception at Annesley Hall, be guests at the St. Hilda’s College alumnae reunion dinner or venture over to a dance at Newman Hall to shimmy the night away.

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  1. One Response to “ This Side of Paradise ”

  2. Ken Koehler says:

    In June 1930, my Mom had completed her second year in Household Science at Victoria College. She was able to get summer employment in the dining room at Bigwin Inn on Lake of Bays, a favorite Ontario vacation spot for still wealthy Americans!