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Communication Studies


This article analyzes the campaign against “pernicious” literature undertaken by the National Council of Women of Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. Concerned with the growing availability of dime novels, penny dreadfuls, and romances and their perceived influences on young readers, Council members sought to educate the Canadian public about the circulation of so-called “pernicious” literature. But they also sought to eradicate the popularity of “pernicious” literature by encouraging children, youth, and adults to read a “better class” of books, through the creation of the National Home Reading Union in 1895. This article argues that through these strategies, the Council’s campaign re-asserted the primacy of the family, with the mother as its moral guide, in providing the ultimate defence against the dangers of “pernicious” literature.


This article was originally published in Canadian Journal of Communication, 32(2): 161-179.