Working Women

When you start noticing, there are quite a few images of women in our parks and on our buildings. Many of them are working women, pouring water, holding up buildings or picking apples. I’m really not qualified to unpack all the messages in these representations but I’m confident they tell us something about the times in which they were created and the how the place of women in society was viewed.

A couple of my favourites are the woman over the entrance to the train station.  One holds a locomotive and the other a steamship. These are goddesses of industry, who have a sledge hammer and a spare gear in case they need to make repairs. I like the way their hands rest, almost touching, on the frame that once held a clock.


At the late Queen Elizabeth (the high school I attended) there were beautifully carved sandstone panels beside entrances so students would pass them every day and be inspired. Some showed young men playing hockey, being engineers and doing chemistry experiments. The young women were spinning wool (the distaff ) and being  queens of drama. Carved in stone, you say?

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Visually I’m  fond of how the figures are pushing into the frames of the panels as if they cannot be contained – look at the spinner’s head.

One woman who will receive many visitors soon is the somber figure guarding the cenotaph.


On top of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, that was once the post office, Britannia rules with her spear and a froggy-looking lion sidekick.


A group of bountiful gals are supporting the cornice of the Halifax Club. You have to look way up.


In the Public Gardens there are a number of goddesses but the woman doing the most work is this nymph endlessly pouring water. She’s made out of zinc and comes from New York. No wonder she looks so fine.


Was the original woman’s job apple picking, or was that just original sin. In any case my real favourite woman about town is Eve on this brilliant 18th century grave stone in the Old Burying Grounds.


Here is a sad example where a woman’s work is finally done.  I’ll let you interpret mother’s gesture.


Mother is on a zinc grave marker in Holy Cross Cemetery on South Park St.

There are many more women of this ilk around town quietly doing their jobs. Be sure to notice and acknowledge them.


About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.