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In Ontario in the 1950s play was a serious business. "The Public at Play" brings to light a forgotten moment of failed political idealism, when leisure meant much more than fun. Between 1945 and 1961 the government funded the hiring of a cadre of recreation directors in the villages, towns, and cities of Ontario. Liberal thinkers saw this funding as a way to foster a democratic and participatory society; working with these directors, municipalities could start grass-roots community activities, in the process conditioning mind and body for active citizenship. The ideals were high: women and men would play equal roles; volunteers would be integral to the shape local recreation would take; and the whole effort would be guided by and instilled with the democratic spirit of the emerging welfare state.
From this high ground, the movement went rapidly into a tailspin. Volunteers fell into petty roles or simply slid into consumerism, leaving power in a few familiar hands. Women and girls were pushed out of the process.
As Tillotson examines just what went wrong, the intrinsic connection between the sidelining of women's leadership and the calcification of regional recreation schemes into bureacracies becomes all too apparent. Yet while Tillotson fully develops the central motif of gender, she is never reductive. Scholars and policy makers will value her sophisticated examination of the many lines of force involved when high politics meets the entrenched value systems of communities.
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SHIRLEY TILLOTSON is an associate professor in the Dalhousie University History Department.
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Book Description Univ of Toronto Pr, Toronto, 2000. Soft cover. Condition: Near Fine. Book has slight wear, mostly on corners and a small amount of soiling to edges. Seller Inventory # 003229