Occupation: Married Woman (Canada Voters Lists, 1935-1980)

During the 1930s Alex and Annie operated a small grocery shop in their home on Armstrong St. In the depths of the depression my father, who was a railroader, got very little work and we were often short of cash. At those times our credit was good and we could always get the essentials at the Morans. There were lots of card games and visits to and fro. Uncle Alex was also a fiddle player and he and Aunt Em Delaney played for dancing and entertainment.

– Emmett Patrick Sloan, Memories of the Morans (2007)

Ancestry.ca has an extremely useful database of voters lists: “Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980.” These lists can be used as a census substitute of sorts, although of course they only include adult citizens (age 21 and over until 1970, at which point the voting age was lowered to 18). They can help to discover and/or verify addresses, and they may also provide some useful information on occupations.

But as with the Canadian census (and the US federal census, for that matter, and the UK census too), these voters lists tend to erase evidence of occupation for married women. Well, perhaps “erase” is too strong a term? it suggests an act of commission, when what we are dealing with, arguably, is an act of omission.

My great-grandparents Alex (Alexander Michael) and Annie (Anna Maria Benton) Moran had a grocery store, a small “mom-and-pop” operation at the front of their  house on Armstrong St. Here they are in the 1935 List of Electors (Victoria Ward, City of Ottawa), with my grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey (here listed as Mrs Allan [W] [= Wife], married woman) listed just below:

Alexander Moran, Carleton, Ontario, 1935. Ancestry.ca: database online. Original: Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935-1980; Reel: M-4739.

Notice how Alex and Annie’s “mom-and-pop” operation has become a “pop” operation in this document: Moran, Alexander is listed as a “grocery store proprietor,” while his wife Annie (Mrs Alexander, [W] [= Wife]) is given the occupational designation of “married woman.”

In the 1945 List of Electors (Dalhousie Ward, Ottawa West, City of Ottawa) the widowed Annie Moran (“Moran, Mrs. A.”) can be found at 390 Bronson Ave., Apt. 1. Also at 390 Bronson, Apt. 1 is Annie (Benton) Moran’s sister-in-law, Mary Emilia Moran (Mrs. E. J. [Edward Joseph] Delaney); and a Wesley McNight, soldier, and his wife:

Mrs A Moran, Ottawa West, 1945. Ancestry.ca: database on-line. Original: Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935-1980; Reel: M-4807.

Interestingly enough, my great-grandmother’s occupation is listed here as “retired.” Retired from her former occupation of “married woman”? Well, I suppose that makes sense, given that she was now a widow!