Friday Funny: Yeah, Well I Was Being Enumerated Before You Even Knew What the Census Was

On first glance, I fully read this name on the 1891 Canada Census as Hipster.

“I was calling myself Bailie before it was cool.” Bailie/Bailey doesn’t even show up in the top 1000 baby names in the States until nearly a hundred years later in 1983. (Those stats come from the Social Security Administration’s baby name list, comprised of the names of Americans who applied for Social Security numbers. I wasn’t able to find Canada wide naming trends.)

The Hipsteins lived in Montreal Est. If you look at the full page from the census, about half of the people were enumerated in English (Mr. Hipstein was a dry goods peddler) and the other half in French (including a vet; a medecin vetrenarie). Since the census only asks if the respondent can read or write but doesn’t specify a language, this is kind of a neat springboard to determining whether your Quebec ancestors who died before 1901 (when the census included language) were Anglophone or Francophone.

Wednesday Women’s Work: Eugenie Dery, Bookkeeper

In 1891, 24-year-old Eugenie Dery was living in Montreal, working to support her widowed mother and her younger sister. When I saw her occupation – librarie teneur de livres – I immediately thought “Librarian!”

How hard was it to be a woman librarian in the 1890s?

Surprisingly, there were less barriers than I expected. Librarianship was seen as a suitable job for college educated women. They had the skill to do the work, and were hired due to the sexist beliefs of the day that they wouldn’t cause trouble and would be subordinate to (male) professors. Of course, they also broke into a new field for the reason that many women did: They were cheaper to hire than men. McGill University in Montreal conferred its first degrees to female graduates in 1888, and before that women had been admitted to women’s colleges. An educated woman could be working in an academic library.

Eugenie was not a librarian. Librarie is a bookseller, and teneur de livres is a bookkeeper. In the 1892-1893 Montreal Lovell’s Directory, Eugenie is listed as working for Dery & Co., a fancy goods store, so we can assume that she handled the financial aspects of a bookstore. While not common, a spinster handling administrative work for what seems like a family business would not have been unusual. On her burial record in 1905, she is still a teneur de livres. The witnesses who signed are Flavier Joseph Granger, a bookseller and Jean Baptiste Dery, a trader.

Eugenie died on the twelfth of November 1905, and is buried in Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges cemetery in Montreal.

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