Fraser 2014 Activism

Title Information

Author: Jennifer Fraser

Title: Claims-Making in Context

Subtitle: Forty Years of Canadian Feminist Activism on Violence Against Women

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ottawa

Year: 2014

Pages: x + 326pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | Canadian History | Society: Women's Movement

Full Text

Link: Library and Archives Canada (Free Access)

Link: uO Research (Free Access)

Additional Information


»Feminist activism has a rich history in Canada, but mobilization on the issue of violence against women specifically gained considerable momentum during what is often referred to as the “second wave” of the feminist movement. Since this time, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have seen a proliferation of both grassroots and public policy responses to intimate partner violence and sexual violence. This study is an effort to construct a feminist history of the activism that occurred between 1970 and 2010, as well as to make sense of feminist claims-making strategies using a social constructionist approach to social problems and to make sense of feminist activism as a social movement using social movement impact theory. In constructing a feminist history, documents from the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives were consulted and interviews with current and former feminist activists were conducted. The historical component of this study focuses on how feminist activists first recognized and responded to the problem of violence against women.
This analysis suggests that throughout the last forty years, feminist activists have engaged in a multi-pronged project of providing feminist services for victims of intimate partner and sexual violence, advocating for social and legal change as the “official” response to violence against women, and conducting their own research on the extent and nature of violence against women. Various strategies were used in this process, including forming partnerships and coalitions, but activists also faced challenges from within and outside the movement, including internal debates, struggles to fit in, and backlash from counter movements. The final chapter discusses how the history of feminist activism on violence against woman cannot easily fit into strict constructionist approach to understanding social problems and, as a social movement, is difficult to evaluate given the myriad goals, mechanisms for reaching those goals, and interpretations of success associated with the movement. Future research directions are also suggested, including looking at evidence of claims-making from other sources; bridging the gap, theoretically and pragmatically, between the “mainstream” feminist movement and other streams of women’s activism; and, more conceptual work on feminist movements and the separation between intimate partner and sexual violence.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. ii)
  Acknowledgements (p. iv)
  Abbreviations (p. vi)
  Chapter 1: Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 2: Understanding social problems, social movements, and feminism (p. 8)
    Social problems theory (p. 8)
    Social movements theory (p. 12)
    Social movement impact theory (p. 21)
      Feminist social movements in Canada (p. 26)
    Conclusion (p. 37)
  Chapter 3: Feminist activism on violence against women in Canada (p. 39)
    Recognizing and defining a problem (p. 39)
    Responding to victims/survivors (p. 45)
    Measuring the extent of the problem (p. 49)
    Getting on the political agenda (p. 52)
      Framing the issue of wife battering as a crime (p. 52)
      The criminal justice response to domestic violence in Ontario (p. 58)
      Rape law reform (p. 63)
      Regroupements and the Government of Quebec (p. 78)
    Conclusion (p. 83)
  Chapter 4: Methodology (p. 85)
    Feminist History-Making (p. 85)
    Research Method (p. 88)
      Data Collection & Sample (p. 91)
      Archival Research (p. 92)
      Key Informant Interviews (p. 95)
    Data Analysis (p. 102)
    Situating the Research (p. 106)
    Limitations (p. 112)
    Conclusion (p. 116)
  Chapter 5: Feminist activists' voices – The claims-making process (p. 117)
    Recognizing wife battering as a social problem (p. 117)
    Recognizing rape as a social problem (p. 1299
    (Not) Making the links: Wife battering and rape (p. 138)
    Responding to the problem: Feminist service provision (p. 145)
      Rape crisis and sexual assault centres (p. 149)
      Shelters and transition homes (p. 152)
    Responding to a problem: Feminist advocacy (p. 155)
      Advocacy for funding (p. 162)
      Advocacy for recognition of feminist expertise (p. 167)
      Advocacy for state action (p. 178)
    Responding to a problem: Feminist research (p. 202)
    Conclusion (p. 207)
  Chapter 6: Feminist activists' voices – Making sense of the social movement (p. 210)
    Feminist activism: Then and now (p. 210)
    Social movements strategies and challenges (p. 214)
      Integrating service provision, advocacy, & research (p. 214)
      Partnerships, coalitions, and Regroupements (p. 217)
      Internal debates (p. 220)
      Recognizing Aboriginal women's activism (p. 240)
    Conclusion (p. 244)
  Chapter 7: Making sense of feminists' activism on violence against women in Canada (p. 246)
    Claims-making in context (p. 246)
    Assessing the impact of feminist activism (p. 256)
    Future directions, bridging gaps (p. 260)
    Conclusion (p. 263)
  References (p. 266)
  Legal Cases & Legislation Cited (p. 295)
  Appendix A: Timeline of key events regarding violence against women in Canada (p. 297)
  Appendix B: Feminist groups included in documentary analysis (p. 309)
  Appendix C: Interview guide (p. 318)
  Appendix D: Archival research indicator guide (p. 321)
  Appendix E: Archival research codebook (p. 323)
    Interview Data Codebook (p. 324)

Wikipedia: Feminism in Canada

Added: December 20, 2014 – Last updated: December 20, 2014