ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED | MAY 30, 1912 | FARMER'S ADVOCATE & HOME MAGAZINE
Scores, yes hundreds, of reasons have been advanced to account for the boys leaving the farm to engage in urban occupations. The problem is unsolved. Perhaps if all the sound reasons advanced were put together in one volume they would cover the case. In dealing with the subject of the trend of population cityward, by far the largest percentage of writers discuss the problem from a very one-sided point of view. The boy would seem to be the only person that the rural district cannot afford to loose [sic]. The migration of the girls is ignored almost entirely. In reality, the loss of the girls is a more serious blow to the country districts than is the loss of their brothers. While not entirely filled, the boys’ places are somewhat taken by the immigrants from the Old Land. Not so with the girls. Once the country is depleted, there is no way to replace them. Women immigrants are not so numerous as the males, and those who do come to our shores remain in the cities.
One of the Toronto dailies some time ago cited this condition of affairs as “startling,” basing its knowledge on the fact that the last census showed that several counties contained far more men than woman, viz., Bruce, with 1,875 more, Grey 1,719, and Welland, which is a small county, 2,381. Continuing, this paper pointed out that there is scarcely a county in Ontario where agriculture is the foremost industry in which there are not more men than women; while in the urban constituency of North Toronto alone there are 7,500 more women than men.
Here is a state of affairs upon which those interested in social problems have ample scope to exercise all their thought and genius, and one upon which every citizen of Canada can afford to ruminate. A country’s strength depends upon the number and character of its homes, and a country’s homes depend upon its women. With such a condition of affairs as now exists, and which from year to year is growing worse, what will be the outcome? There is no surer and quicker method of permanently reducing the rural population of our country than by the steady course of its young women to the commercial centers. Such a condition does not point to an increase in the number of homes in the land, but it is a sure road to the reverse. City girls do not leave the city for the country, and country girls, once in the city and accustomed to its society, bustle and excitement, rarely return to the country to make home. With the men predominating in numbers in the country districts, and the women in a large majority in the cities, conditions can never right themselves. In fact, such circumstances only increase the tendency for more of the men to flock to town.
Girls going to the cities get positions in offices as stenographers or clerks, many work in stores or whitewear factories - and why do they do it? The writer in the paper heretofore referred to gives the following as the main reasons. “It would probably be found that the desire for pocket-money and the instinct of gregariousness are the two chief causes for the drift of the girls from the farm. Too many comfortable Canadian farmers think their daughters have no need of money, and that for their services an occasional dollar, grudgingly doled out, is ample recompense. Many a girl becomes a wage-earner in the cities so that she may sometimes have a dollar to spend, even though in earning it she must live under conditions that are not nearly so agreeable as life on the farm.”
The old cause, lack of social intercourse, is also alluded to. Social life in the country is claimed to be less attractive than in the old days of dances, sleighing parties, spelling bees, and Templar meetings.
What is the remedy? Here is what the newspaper editor puts forward and it is worthy of consideration: “The telephone, with its facilities for arranging social gatherings; the making of regular and systematic money allowances to the girls, to be spent on their own initiative, and the introduction of sanitary conveniences into farm buildings, would do much to prevent rural Ontario from becoming a country of elderly and middle-aged people, while the cities are swarming with pallid, restless girls who would be the life and joy of the farms of this fertile province.”
Girls abhor solitude. Their more sensitive disposition, and all the finer qualities which go to make up human femininity demand company, and with company, wholesome excitement. The telephone and quiet driving horse (one which any woman can drive with safety) are great helps in this direction. But when it comes right down to the bottom of the matter, modern conveniences which eliminate drudgery in the home, and sufficient spending money, would do more than anything else to keep the girls in the country. No young woman cares to be a burden upon her people. She would rather work for wages first, and we admire her pluck. The girl who does a share of the work in the farmhouse earns her money just as legitimately as if she pounded the keys of a typewriter or made or sold any of the articles known to commerce. She should not hesitate to accept it, neither should it be withheld from her or grudgingly given. Make the woman’s task lighter in her home, and she will not be so desirous of changing her position for one in the city. Give her opportunity to enjoy life. All can be accomplished, and it is a duty which every farm owes its womenfolk.