Trading the Apron for the White Lab Coat: A Contemporary History of Dietetics in Canada, 1954 to 2016
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This dissertation explores the history of the dietetic profession in Canada through the lens of a feminist sociology of expertise—a theoretical framework that I develop throughout this dissertation. Dietetics arose from home economics in the early 20th century. Although home economics has been the subject of scholarly inquiry, dietetics has received little attention from historians or from the profession itself. However, unravelling the history of dietetics reveals compelling insights about women’s access to post-secondary education, particularly in the sciences, as well as paid employment throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Moreover, the history of dietetics reveals interesting insights about the competing ontological and epistemological understandings of food, eating, nutrition, health, professions, and expertise. As a female-dominated profession, whose knowledge base has historically been centered on food, this study of dietetics also provides important insights about the relative power and place of women and feminized professions within the health care hierarchy. I conducted oral history interviews with 18 long-serving, Canadian dietitians who had been recognized as leaders in their field at some point in their careers. Each oral history consisted of three, one-hour long interviews that were conducted approximately three days to one week apart. The oral history interviews will be archived for public use in the Esther Clark Wright Archive at Acadia University. Based on the insights of the narrators who participated in my research, I advance several findings related to the shifting knowledge base and identity of the profession, as well as its engagement in social justice advocacy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.