More than 50%: Woman ‘s Life in a Newfoundland Outport 1900-1950
By Hilda Chaulk Murray
Published: 2010 (Originally 1980)
Published By: Flanker Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Hilda Chaulk Murray’s More Than 50% is an important piece of Atlantic folklore that encapsulates a woman’s role in the Newfoundland and Labrador outport community. In the days before Confederation, women and men worked hard to prosecute the province’s robust cod fishery, and although women’s work kept them on shore, their contribution to this once-thriving industry was no less important than men’s. In fact, it was universally accepted that the matriarch was the driving force in meeting the family’s and indeed the entire community’s needs. Murray’s hometown of Elliston, Trinity Bay, in the early twentieth century is the setting for this book, in which she gives a guided tour of the female’s unique and ever-changing roles, from girlhood to womanhood, in the outport way of life.
More Than 50% was derived from the authors academic thesis for Memorial University (Memorial University of Newfoundland). I came across this book in a small gift shop, when I last visited the island. The topic of women’s life in out-port communities interested me, as that is where my own family were born and raised. Although they are from different communities and weren’t in the fishery, much of the content pertained to what my grandmothers lives would have entailed. And of course those who came before them, as well.
Yes, this book could use some more editing, however it was the content itself that kept my attention. I felt that Hilda Chaulk Murray painted a clear picture of life during the time periods she covered. It must have been fascinating to travel around her home community interviewing its older residents. She talked of old Newfoundland traditions that were passed through the generations as well as the impact the decline in the fishery had on its people. I found it especially interesting to learn about life in pre-confederation Newfoundland, including how many felt more connected to the United States than they did the country they would eventually join.
The roles of women in the both the fishery and household made for an important topic to be covered. I would recommend it to those who are interested in Newfoundland culture and history.
“The inshore cod fishery was the main work but the only thing certain about it was the uncertainly.”