A sepia image of brick buildings. There is a fence around the buildings. Superimposed in front and above the buildings is an image of women in domestic outfits looking towards the camera. On the sides of the image it says "Publishers Webster & Albee Rochester, N.Y. Views of Toronto, Ont."

Bad Girls

As women sought to create lives for themselves in 19th and early 20th-century Toronto, they found opportunities, freedom, and sometimes adversity.

Explore today’s Liberty Village through the lens of women’s mobility in Toronto during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As more women began working and living in the city during this time, public officials increasingly placed limitations on female agency, either through public opinion or provincial legislation. Many women faced accusations of criminality and deviancy, often leading to confinement at the Andrew Mercer Reformatory, the first all-women’s prison in Canada, which occupied much of what is today’s Liberty Village. 

This tour was developed by emerging historian Autumn Beals (2022) as part of our Equity Heritage Initiative, and made possible by the support of TD Bank and The Ready Commitment, and a generous donation made by Alex Pike.

Choose a marker to begin your tour

If you’re exploring on a mobile device, please abide by all traffic and safety rules. Only look at your device when you are standing stationary in a safe location!

General Sources

Chilton, L.  Receiving Canada’s immigrants: The work of the state before 1930. Immigration and ethnicity  in Canada series. Canadian Historical Association, 2016.

Demerson, Velma, Incorrigible. 2004.

Glasbeek, Amanda Feminized Justice: The Toronto Women’s Court, 1913-1934, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2009. 

LeBlanc, Jason, What Will Come Of Liberty Village’s Historic Prison Chapel. Liberty Village Toronto Blog, 2019.

Panneton, Daniel. Incorrigible Women. Maisonneuve, 2018.

Sangster, Joan. Criminalizing the Colonized: Ontario Native Women Confront the Criminal Justice System, 1920-60. Canadian Historical Review 80, 1 (1999): 32-60.