An image of a man and a woman dancing on a stage wearing cultural outfits, with people watching in the background. The title "Before Official Multiculturalism" is written large at the bottom, with the author's name "Franca Iacovetta" below it. The subtitle "Women's Pluralism in Toronto, 1950s-1970s" is written in black in the top-right corner.

Before Official Multiculturalism Book

An image of a man and a woman dancing on a stage wearing cultural outfits, with people watching in the background. The title "Before Official Multiculturalism" is written large at the bottom, with the author's name "Franca Iacovetta" below it. The subtitle "Women's Pluralism in Toronto, 1950s-1970s" is written in black in the top-right corner.

Cover of “Before Official Multiculturalism: Women’s Pluralism in Toronto, 1950s-1970s” by Franca Iacovetta, 2023 Heritage Toronto Book Award nominee.

Author: Franca Iacovetta

Publisher: University of Toronto Press

For almost two decades before Canada officially adopted multiculturalism in 1971, a large network of women and their allies in Toronto were promoting pluralism as a city- and nation-building project. Before Official Multiculturalism assesses women as liberal pluralist advocates and activists, critically examining the key roles they played as community organizers, frontline social workers, and promoters of ethnic festivals.

The book explores women’s community-based activism in support of a liberal pluralist vision of multiculturalism thorough an analysis of the International Institute of Metropolitan Toronto, a postwar agency that sought to integrate newcomers into the mainstream and promote cultural diversity. Drawing on the rich records of the institute, as well as the massive International Institutes collection in Minnesota, the book situates Toronto within its Canadian and North American contexts and addresses the flawed mandate to integrate immigrants and refugees into an increasingly diverse city.

Franca Iacovetta investigates the contradictions between the activists’ desire to celebrate and build ethnic diversity on one hand, and their project of Canadian nation-building on the other. Drawing lessons from the history of the Toronto International Institute, Before Official Multiculturalism engages with national and international debates to provide a critical analysis of women’s pluralism in Canada.


About the Author:

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 and the award-winning books Gatekeepers: Reshaping Immigrant Lives in Cold War Canada and the co-edited Beyond Women’s Words. She lives in Toronto.