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Great Dames

Great Dames

Elspeth Cameron
Janice Dickin
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 304
  • Book Info
    Great Dames
    Book Description:

    This book elucidates the lives and achievements of several Canadian women from different walks of life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7550-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Until fairly recently, writing lives has largely, though certainly not exclusively, been an endeavour to describe, interpret, and thereby fix in time the public careers of public men. The theme of PlutarchʹsLives,¹ the first writings acknowledged as biographical, was the acquisition and husbanding of political power by Greek and Roman men. The enduring connection between biography and nationalism has been thoughtfully explored by Anna Makolkin inName,Hero,Icon(1992).² To some readers, this is still what biography is for. As citizens affected by the decisions of leaders and lawmakers, they crave comfort from confirmation of a national ideology...

  4. Just the Facts?

    • ʹWrite Down Everything Just as You Know Itʹ: A Portrait of Ibolya Szalai Grossman
      (pp. 21-34)

      10 December 1916 Ibolya was born in Pécs in the southwest part of Hungary to Ignacz Szalai and his second wife, Laura Fisher. She was the second-born of three daughters. She also had two half-sisters who were born to her fatherʹs first wife. Ignacz was a tinsmith; Laura kept a kosher house and blessed the children on Friday nights because the father, whose duty it would normally be to bless the family, was not very religious. Ibolya says that although there was always enough food on the table, the family was poor.

      c. 1921–5 Ibolya went to a Hebrew...

    • Victims of the Times, Heroes of Their Lives: Five Mennonite Refugee Women
      (pp. 35-54)

      Observers and analysts of contemporary world events, such as social scientists and newsmakers, frequently cite the statistic that 80 per cent of the worldʹs refugees are women and children.¹ Given this fact, anthropologist Doreen Indra has called for the study of gender as central to the refugee experience, pointing out that most research concerning refugees is primarily a ʹmale paradigm.ʹ² Historical writing on immigration to Canada has also, until recently, been dominated by interpretation that has ʹassumed (heterosexual) male behaviour and male-dominated public activity to define the immigrant experience.ʹ³ While research into the female experience of migration is increasing, the...

    • Driving towards Death
      (pp. 55-72)

      Florence, the noose is a necklace. Not quite as soft as a velvet ribbon gracing your wedding best neck but a line dividing breath from choke, head from body. The rope, Florence, can form the shape of a question. Or a knot.

      Florence Lassandro knew how to drive. Florence drove the rumrunning cars: first Model T Fords, then Buicks, McLaughlin Six Specials, McLaughlin Sevens. Cars capable of ricochet, of a swift plunge into a ditch or over an embankment, of out-racing the Alberta Provincial Police patrols, thick men designated to smell out liquor and confiscate bottles, pour their liquid into...

  5. Creating Facts

    • Dear Ruth: This Is the Story of Maggie Wilson, Ojibwa Ethnologist
      (pp. 75-96)

      In the summer of 1932, two women met at the Manitou Rapids Indian Reserve between Fort Frances and Kenora in northwestern Ontario. One was Maggie Wilson, a world-weary Scots-Cree grandmother in her fifties who walked with a limp and suffered from dropsy and other ailments related to age and poverty, who had lived her entire life on Ojibwa reserves along the Rainy River. The other was twenty-three-year-old Ruth Schlossberg Landes, who had been born and raised in New York City, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, and who had recently separated from her medical student husband. An urbane, attractive woman, Mrs...

    • Casting Light on Women in the Shadow of the Law: Toronto at the Turn of the Century
      (pp. 97-118)

      ʹThe lady vanishes,ʹ the title of Hitchcockʹs 1938 film announced. The directorʹs legendary misogyny led many of his screen heroines to disappear – off mission towers, behind shower curtains or, more often, into the arms of the hero. Feminists have also been drawn to the metaphor of the disappearing woman. However, our project has been to restore women to history after centuries of benign, and not-so-benign, neglect. That demands to include women in historical debates persistently raise eyebrows attests to the still-radical, semi-magical act of making ladies reappear.

      As magicians perhaps realize, it is more difficult to make some ladies...

  6. Struggle to Create

    • From Bovarysme to Automatisme (and Beyond): Thérèse Renaud and the Refus global Women
      (pp. 121-144)

      In August 1948, a small group of Quebec artists under the leadership of painter Paul-Émile Borduas published a manifesto that would later be regarded as the first decisive cultural gesture rejecting the values of traditional French Canada and announcing the emergence of a modernity that would become fully visible with the arrival of the Quiet Revolution twelve years later. EntitledRefus global– Total Refusal – the manifesto denounced the conservative and church-dominated values that held Quebec in a stranglehold, and passionately affirmed the link between artistic creation and the possibility of social transformation:

      The frontiers of our dreams are...

    • The Wrong Time and the Wrong Place: Gwethalyn Graham, 1913–1965
      (pp. 145-164)

      I see novelist Gwethalyn Graham, age nineteen, standing on the end of a dock at Go Home Bay in Northern Ontario. She seems caught forever – as if in a photograph – on that windswept Muskoka Island that inspired her fatherʹs friend, painter A.Y. Jackson. This late-blooming woman, who had just won a scholarship for a second year at Smith College in Massachussetts, was about to meet her fate.¹ For driving towards her in a sleek, powerful boat with his father that summery day in 1932 was Jack McNaught, thirteen years her senior. A man recently returned from abroad, whose...

  7. ʹTraditionalʹ Lives

    • Settling the Score with Myths of Settlement: Two Women Who Roughed It and Wrote It
      (pp. 167-183)

      Learning to read Canadian women settlersʹ memoirs in archival collections has been, for me, an education in unlearning myths of ʹsettlement,ʹ One myth is the heroic one of men who explored, ranched, farmed, and harnessed the natural resources of the vast territory of Canadaʹs western provinces in the name of progress. Another is the heroic one of women, which presents the Canadian West as a place where they could escape gender binds and share equally in the adventure, work, and benefits of the settlement experience. However, when I read the unpublished archival accounts of women settlers, I find that, although...

    • Anna of Intola: A Finnish-Canadian Woman with Sisu
      (pp. 184-205)

      I never met Anna Koivu, but as I listen to a tape of her voice, recorded when she was in her eighties, I am struck by its animation. She is on stage, performing, as she recounts her life, with the perfect timing of an expert storyteller. I am mesmerized by her. I am comforted, too, by a familiar Finnish-English accent, which, in its recognizable rhythms and intonations, recalls for me the voices of my grandparents. My grandmother first inspired my admiration for Finnish women like Anna. The daughter of a judge in Finland, my grandmother was an immigrant woman who...

    • Soaring to New Heights: Changes in the Life Course of Mabel McIntosh
      (pp. 206-224)

      The hawks circled overhead on outstretched wings, flapping occasionally, then soaring higher and higher before gliding towards the south over the Lake of Two Mountains. Forty-one-year-old Mabel McIntosh stood on Oka beach, watching a kettle of migrating broad-winged hawks. She was fascinated. Although she was to see more spectacular hawk flights in North and Central America, none would equal this, her first experience with hawk migration.

      As a member of the Province of Quebec Society for the Protection of Birds (PQSPB), Mabel McIntosh was on a Saturday field trip on that September day in 1963 with a small group of...

  8. Breaking into ʹMenʹs Professionsʹ

    • Marion Hilliard: ʹRaring to Go All the Timeʹ
      (pp. 227-244)

      Marion Milliard was one of the most famous woman doctors of her time. Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Womenʹs College Hospital, Toronto, from 1947 to 1957, she was the most sought-after obstetrician in Toronto. What made her a household name in Canada and elsewhere, however, was a series of articles she wrote inChatelainein the early 1950s and which she turned into the bestselling book,A Woman Doctor Looks at Love and Life. At the time of her death in 1958, she was working on another book,Women and Fatigue.¹ The popularity of both books is found in...

    • ʹBy Title and by Virtueʹ: Lady Frederick and Dr Henrietta Ball Banting
      (pp. 245-263)

      As I sit down to write up my research for this piece, I find myself confronted by my very first memo to file: ʹHenrietta Ball Banting, 1912–76, graduated from TO 1945, meets Banting in 1937. Sheʹs 25 and heʹs 46. Treat him as interim in her life.ʹ

      I remember precisely what sparked my interest in this woman. I first became conscious of her as an individual in Carlotta HackerʹsThe Indomitable Lady Doctors, while doing general research on women doctors for another project. Here was a woman with a distinguished professional life whose biographical entry nonetheless opened with the...

    • Elizabeth Allin: Physicist
      (pp. 264-288)

      As a newly married faculty wife in the early 1960s, I entered the world of physics at the University of Toronto. The spouses of new physics instructors were inducted into university life in those days through two sorts of events: meetings of the Faculty Wivesʹ Association and social gatherings of the physics department. It must have been at one of the latter that I first met Professor Elizabeth Allin.

      The meetings were not particularly auspicious. Elizabeth Allin was a senior physics professor, nearing retirement; I was a young high school teacher and faculty wife oriented, I thought, towards full-time homemaking....

  9. Giving Voice

    • ʹOut of a Cardboard Box beside Our Bed like a Babyʹ: The Founders of Sister Vision Press
      (pp. 291-306)

      Makeda Silvera and Stephanie Martin wanted to provide Black women and women of colour with a mechanism for the proliferation of their words. They envisioned a publishing house that would bring books by Black women and women of colour to the public.

      On 10 April 1985, at the Bamboo, a popular Toronto nightclub, the vision became a reality. The club was filled with people who supported the vision. They participated in the launch of Sister Vision Press with enthusiasm and love, which were born of the hope that the project gave them. People of all races were present; the vision...

    • Evelyn Garbary: ʹFor Those of Us Whose Bones Are Stage Propsʹ
      (pp. 307-322)

      Esther Evelyn Sam Owen Bowen; Evelyn Speaight; Evelyn OʹDonovan; Evelyn Garbary. I look for her in these names that mark stages in her life; I sift the details, searching for patterns, but the closer I come to her, the more the details fall away like leaves on a tree in autumn.

      Cardigan, South Wales, 18 June 1911: Esther Evelyn Sara Owen Bowen is born. Welsh is her native tongue, learned from her grandmother. English is a foreign language learned from her mother, who also ʹingrainsʹ manners in her only child: a lady never puts her spoon in the middle of...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 323-326)
  11. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 327-328)
  12. Index
    (pp. 329-340)