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The Woman's Page

The Woman's Page: Journalism and Rhetoric in Early Canada

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Woman's Page
    Book Description:

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, journalism, politics, and social advocacy were largely male preserves. Six women, however, did manage to come to prominence through their writing and public performance: Agnes Maule Machar, Sara Jeannette Duncan, E. Pauline Johnson, Kathleen Blake Coleman, Flora MacDonald Denison, and Nellie L. McClung.The Woman's Pageis a detailed study of these six women and their respective works.

    Focusing on the diverse sources of their rhetorical power, Janice Fiamengo assesses how popular poetry, journalism, essays, and public speeches enabled these women to play major roles in the central debates of their day. A few of their names, particularly those of McClung and Johnson, are still well known today, although studies of their writings and speeches are limited. Others are almost entirely unknown, an unfortunate fact given the wit, intelligence, and passion of their writing and self-presentation. Seeking to return their words to public attention,The Woman's Pagedemonstrates how these women influenced readers and listeners regarding their society's most controversial issues.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8962-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Strong Statement, Trenchant Ideas, Promising Plans
    (pp. 3-28)

    In 1879 Agnes Maule Machar (1837–1927) published ‘The New Ideal of Womanhood’ inRose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review, Canada’s most prestigious cultural periodical. Part of a series by the author on the changing status of women, the article claimed for them a significantly expanded public role. Where once a woman’s duties and responsibilities were severely limited, Machar argued, she was now conceded ‘a right to her share in the world’s work, whether in what has been rightly considered her more especial sphere, or in any other for which she is fitted.’¹ As so often in Machar, alongside the...

  5. 1 Agnes Maule Machar, Christian Radical
    (pp. 29-58)

    In an article forThe Weekentitled ‘Voices Crying in the Wilderness’ (1891), Agnes Maule Machar wrote admiringly of the impact of social reformers such as the Reverend James Huntington and General William Booth, whose words on behalf of ‘suffering humanity’ had recently created a ‘deep impression’¹ on many Canadians. Huntington was a radical Episcopalian priest and adherent of the social gospel who had toured Ontario in 1891 to promote Henry George’s Single Tax solution to social inequality, a scheme whereby a high tax on privately owned land would redistribute wealth. Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army and...

  6. 2 The Uses of Wit: Sara Jeannette Duncan’s Self-Fashioning
    (pp. 59-88)

    ‘Dear Garth Grafton,’ wrote a reader of Sara Jeannette Duncan’s 1886 column in the TorontoGlobe, ‘I take much pleasure and profit reading the themes that are discussed in the columns of “Woman’s World.” But I think sometimes you are rather severe on some of the characters which are introduced.’¹ Such was a typical response to the sharptongued persona Duncan created in her newspaper columns of the mid-1880s. Although sometimes finding her ‘rather severe,’ readers seemed to enjoy being teased, corrected, and edified by the ebullient Garth, who never hesitated to point out flabby logic or chide them for infelicities...

  7. 3 ‘This graceful olive branch of the Iroquois’: Pauline Johnson’s Rhetoric of Reconciliation
    (pp. 89-120)

    When Sara Jeannette Duncan interviewed Pauline Johnson for theGlobe’s ‘Woman’s World’ column on 14 October 1886, she called her a ‘graceful olive branch of the Iroquois.‘¹ Although she did not elaborate on the comment, Duncan appeared to suggest that the poet embodied, both in her mixed-race parentage and in her promotion of Indian dignity within a framework of Canadian nationalism, a process of peacemaking between the First Peoples of Canada and the Anglo-Canadian majority. That Johnson also saw herself in that way is evident not only in her dedication ofCanadian Born(1903), her second volume of poetry, to...

  8. 4 Gossip, Chit-Chat, and Life Lessons: Kit Coleman’s Womanly Persona
    (pp. 121-152)

    Kathleen Blake Coleman belonged to the first generation of Canadian newspaper women and was probably the most famous of them in her day. From 1890 to 1911 she wrote a regular Saturday column in the TorontoDaily Mail(from 1895 theMail and Empire) entitled ‘Woman’s Kingdom.’ Her byline, Kit, first appeared in the autumn of 1889, and by early 1890 she was in charge of a syndicated feature of one or more pages, containing an editorial, a ‘Pot-pourri’ section of observations and short narratives, and one or more columns of ‘Correspondence,’ in which Kit answered questions from readers writing...

  9. 5 Heroines and Martyrs in the Cause: Suffrage as Holy War in the Journalism of Flora MacDonald Denison
    (pp. 153-176)

    Known today as the mother of the pioneering playwright Merrill Denison, Flora MacDonald Denison was a columnist for the Toronto SundayWorldfrom 1909 to 1913 and a leading activist in the Canadian suffrage movement. Deborah Gorham considers her one of the few radical feminists in the suffrage struggle, distinct from the middle-class social reformers who made up the majority of members of the movement. Such a distinction is also made by Alison Prentice and her co-authors, who note that she was ‘one of the few Canadian women to identify herself publicly as a suffragette,’¹ rather than the more moderate...

  10. 6 Nellie McClung and the Rhetoric of the Fair Deal
    (pp. 177-208)

    In the late spring of 1914, newspapers were exclaiming over the exploits of Nellie McClung, forty-year-old prairie author and ‘great woman orator.’¹ In May and early June of that year, just a few months before the beginning of the First World War, she was on a speaking tour of her home province that would involve as many as one hundred political addresses to Manitoba audiences large and small. Her goal was to help defeat the provincial Conservative party, which was on record as opposing woman suffrage and other reforms, including temperance legislation, that were dear to her heart. Already a...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-216)

    To move from the earnest, theologically orthodox social gospel of Agnes Machar to the spunky, theologically liberal social gospel of Nellie McClung is to travel a path fairly representative (if two such extraordinary women can ever be representative) of the shifts in emphasis and assumptions within the radical Christian community during the period 1875–1915. McClung was comfortably part of a secularizing world in which the practical application of Christian principles outweighed Machar’s evangelical emphasis on doctrinal coherence and personal salvation. As Christians writing about social justice, however, they had much in common: both grounded their arguments in Scripture, outlining...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 217-240)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-250)
  14. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 251-252)
  15. Index
    (pp. 253-257)