Capturing Women

Capturing Women: The Manipulation of Cultural Imagery in Canada's Prairie West

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Capturing Women
    Book Description:

    Consisting of a series of stories, events, and episodes, the book highlights shifting patterns, attitudes, and perspectives toward women in the Prairies. One of Carter's overarching themes is that women are seldom in a position to invent or project their own images, identities, or ideas of themselves, nor are they free to fully author their own texts. Focusing on captivity narratives, a popular genre in the United States that has received little attention in Canada, Carter looks at depictions of white women as victims of Aboriginal aggressors and explores the veracity of a number of accounts, including those of Fanny Kelly and Big Bear captives Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock, Canada's most famous captives. Carter also examines depictions of Aboriginal women as sinister and dangerous that appeared in the press as well as in government and some missionary publications. These representations of women, and the race and gender hierarchies created by them, endured in the Canadian West long after the last decades of the nineteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6678-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Defining and Redefining Women
    (pp. 3-47)

    Charles T. Lewis, the genial Canadian Pacific Railway station agent at Indian Head, District of Assiniboia, North-West Territories, a recent arrival from New Brunswick, was an outspoken advocate of the importation of young women to “meet the wants of our Great North-West.” A few years after publishing “Girls Ho!” he devised a scheme that would, he thought, help meet the needs of the hour. In a brochure entitledA Revolution: The World’s Return Rebate Marriage Certificate, or the Want of the West,Lewis described a vast domain, rich in diversified resources.² Yet despite its attraction, he wrote, “the West has...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “The Honour of a White Woman Is Sacred”: The Exploitation of the Experiences of Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock
    (pp. 48-86)

    “A thrill of pleasure will influence every Canadian man and woman on learning that Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Gowanlock have escaped from the Indians safe and uninjured. The news will give as much genuine cause for congratulation as that of the success at Batoche.” The same day that this item appeared in the OttawaFree Press,8 June 1885, two telegrams from the North-West were read in the House of Commons conveying the glad tidings of the safety of the prisoners recently in the custody of Big Bear.¹ As though returning to a close and affectionate family circle, the widows...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “Untold Suffering and Privation”: Changing and Conflicting Stories of Captivity
    (pp. 87-135)

    The story the women told of their experiences, especially the murder of their husbands, was indeed harrowing, but their relatively good treatment in the Cree camp and the consideration and assistance they had received from from the Métis men and their families did not answer the needs of the hour. The widows had not, after all, been “reserved to suffer the nameless horrors of Indian indignity and savage lust.”¹ Nor had they been butchered. In fact, they had not suffered very much during their two months in the custody of the Cree. This would not do. They must have endured...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Captivity Hoaxes and Their Uses
    (pp. 136-157)

    After 1885 there were no further captivities of white women in the Canadian West, but two sensationalized captivity hoaxes in the last decade of the nineteenth century kept alive the perceived threat to the infringement of white female honour as well as the need to pursue strategies of exclusion and control. The habitual image of white women as pale, frail, vulnerable, and in need of protection from the “fate worse than death” was promoted through these incidents, which served as reminders that there was still a menace, still work to be done. In both cases the supposed captives were young...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE In Sharp Relief: Representations of Aboriginal Women in the Colonial Imagination
    (pp. 158-193)

    In 1884 Mary E. Inderwick wrote to her Ontario family from the ranch near Pincher Creek, Alberta, where she had lived with her new husband for six months.¹ Her letter provides a perspective on the stratifications of race, gender, and class that were forming as the Euro-Canadian enclave grew in the District of Alberta. Mary Inderwick lamented that it was a lonely life, for she was twenty-two miles from any other women, and she had even offered to help some of her male neighbours “get their shacks done up if only they will go east and marry some really nice...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Alibis for Exclusion: Old Frenzy, New Targets
    (pp. 194-206)

    The categories of women created in the early settlement era of 1870-1900 proved extraordinarily persistent, especially the negative images of Aboriginal women. Their morality was questioned, for example, in a number of sections of the Indian Act. If a woman was not of a “good moral character,” she lost her one-third interest in her husband’s estate - and a male government official was the sole and final judge of an Indian woman’s moral character. As late as 1921 in the House of Commons, a Criminal Code amendment was debated that would have made it an offence for any white man...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-238)
  13. Index
    (pp. 239-247)