A portrait from another era: '34B' tells the story of the women who worked at Dominion Corset

A portrait from another era: “34B” tells the story of the women who worked at the Dominion Corset

MISE & Agrave; DAY

A symbol of emancipation in the late 1800s, the Dominion Corset factory, a corset factory, also imprisoned female workers inside the shackles of the time. The room 34B recounts the evolution of women's journey through the history of this factory located at the corner of boulevard Charest and rue Dorchester in the Saint-Roch district.

At the displayed at La Bordée, until May 20, 34B plays and unfolds on two tables. There is the story of this factory which was in operation from 1886 to 1988. There is also the one that deals with the evolution of mentalities and working conditions for women.

The author Isabelle Hubert worked for three years on this creation which required a year and a half of research. 

“I realized that there were a lot of archival photos and administrative documents on this factory, but very little information on the life of the workers. The discovery of the book The workers of Dominion Corset in Quebec, 1886 -1988, which told the daily life of the mostly female employees, became the main reference tool. An extraordinary gold mine,” she said in an interview.

To say that she had almost sworn, during her time at the National Theater School of Canada, that she would never write historical plays, for fear of speaking out wrongly.

“It took a lot of research,” she said.

The director Marie-Josée Bastien, who had the idea for this creation, wanted, each time she looked at this building, to design a large fresco on this factory, where, during the 1960s, 1037 employees. The building, which now houses the School of Visual Arts at Laval University, is a few blocks from La Bordée.

Told chronologically, 34B< /em> follows the journey of six women, Léontine, 14, Joséphine, Margaux, Alice, Fabienne and Nathalie, fictional characters who worked there.

Lolo, a visual arts student, who takes classes in the renovated premises of the factory, introduces herself, in a timeless way, to comment on and support certain claims.

“The corset is the man's greatest invention in the service of woman”, launches, at the beginning of the two-hour play, one of the bosses, testifying to the mores of the time. 


“There is a paradox in all of this. The Dominion Corset got women out of the kitchen and into the workforce. We tend to say that it was the first steps of a form of liberation, but when we start to analyze their working conditions, it is practically slavery. The women were paid ten times less than the men who did equivalent work and they did not have the right to be married”, pointed out Isabelle Hubert.

Last Tuesday, at La Bordée, we found a majority of women who may have already worked in this place where some men had long hands.


A work between documentary theater and fiction, 34B is very much focused on the struggle of women and their demands through the ages. The idea of ​​paralleling the story of the Dominion Corset, with the struggle of women and the improvement of working conditions, is interesting and entirely appropriate. It is also a story of friendship and solidarity between the women who worked there. 

Marie-Josée Bastien's staging is punctuated with movement and with references to different eras, including a tramway from the 1940s. 34B lifts the veil on a building that is part of daily life in the lower town of Quebec and that many do not know. 

“The purpose of this piece is to show today's young girls and all of society where we come from. This is the path taken. We didn't want to do a bra-burning show. We wanted something bright and funny,” said Isabelle Hubert.