Cleaning Up: Portuguese Women’s Fight for Labour Rights in Toronto

11th May 2023
06:30 pm - 08:30 pm

“In Cleaning Up, Miranda and Iacovetta give us an ode to ‘feisty womanhood’ and the courageous ‘labour heroines’ who refused to be exploited by government, wealthy corporations, and other bad bossas.” — Aida Jordao

About the book:
This fascinating book uncovers the little-known, surprisingly radical history of the Portuguese immigrant women who worked as night-time office cleaners and daytime “cleaning ladies” in postwar Toronto.
Drawing on union records, newspapers, and interviews, feminist labour historians Susana P. Miranda and Franca Iacovetta piece together the lives of immigrant women who bucked convention by reshaping domestic labour and by leading union drives, striking for workers’ rights, and taking on corporate capital in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. Despite being sidelined within the labour movement and subjected to harsh working conditions in the commercial cleaning industry, the women forged critical alliances with local activists to shape picket-line culture and make an indelible mark on their communities. Richly detailed and engagingly written, Cleaning Up is an archival treasure about an undersung piece of working-class history in urban North America.

About the authors:
Susana P. Miranda is an independent scholar with a PhD in history from York University. The author of scholarly articles on Portuguese cleaners in Toronto, she currently works for the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. A public historian, she is co-founder of the Portuguese Canadian History Project, which collects, preserves, and disseminates material related to the Portuguese in Canada. She lives in Toronto.
Franca Iacovetta is professor emerita of history at the University of Toronto, and a past president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. A historian of women/gender, migration, and transnational radicals, she has published eleven books, including Before Official Multiculturalism: Women’s Pluralism in Toronto, 1950s-1970s. Award-winning books include Gatekeepers: Reshaping Immigrant Lives in Cold War Canada and the co-edited Beyond Women’s Words. She lives in Toronto.