An Extravagant Fraudulence:
The Plight of Sole Support Mothers

by Claire Hogenkamp

"If too often, today, women can hardly reconcile with the best interest of her children an occupation that keeps her away from home for hours and takes all her strength, it is, on the one hand, because feminine employment is still too often a kind of slavery, and on the other, because no effort has been made to provide for the care, protection, and education of children outside the home." Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.

Cet article décrit les difficultés qu'ont les mères de famille monoparentale pour améliorer le sort de leurs enfants et le leur. Claire Hogenkamp partage avec nous son expérience personnelle et explore les problèmes actuels qu'ont des milliers de femmes canadiennes vivant dans cette situation.

Des logements à des prix raisonnables, des services de garderie. voilà les besoins fondamentaux, dit l'auteur. Elle montre les lien entre les besoins de formation menant à un emploi pour ces femmes et l'insuffisance des politiques gouvernementales, d'une part, et les efforts des organismes communautaires, d'autre part.

Elle présente les programmes de formation et d'éducation non traditionnels, ainsi que les programmes relais, comme des moyens d'offrir aux femmes la possibilité de parvenir éventuellement à l'indépendance économique à laquelle elles aspirent tant.

Rereading de Beauvoir's great feminist classic, I find truths about my experience today. When it was first published in 1949, I was too young to understand my femaleness. Nearly twenty years later, in 1968, I understood as I sought employment in the field of Art Education. At that time in Montreal, it was still permissible for a college chairman or an art school director to say out loud "I'm really looking for a man to teach that course. He'll command more respect." Then, without any sense of contradiction, as I was leaving the office he would add, "I caught your last exhibition; it was really exciting."

Unable to support myself in my field in Montreal, I headed south to graduate school in New York. There I walked into a society in turmoil, struggling to adjust the balance of power. Affirmative Action was brought to the U.S. marketplace, and educational, industrial and corporate opportunities became more available to some women. I had become one of the lucky ones, tapping into the thrust for more women in business. Being childless, it never crossed my mind that roses were not coming up in every woman's garden. In retrospect, I'm amazed at how little I understood of the constraints on working women with children. Again, I was to find out through my own experience. Thirty seven years after the publication of The Second Sex, so little has changed for the large majority of women in Canada.


While attending a recent meeting of ACTEW (Association for Community-based Training for Employment for Women) in Toronto, I listened carefully to what each member-program is struggling to accomplish. They all want better access to employment, and improved working and living conditions for their clients.

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