Re(dis)covering Our Foremothers: Nineteenth-Century Canadian by Lorraine McMullen

By Lorraine McMullen

The sleek literary searchlight has flushed out Canada’s lengthy overlooked 19th century woman writers. New serious techniques are endorsed and others are inspired to tackle the problems – and rewards – of study into the lives of our foremothers.

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Re(dis)covering Our Foremothers: Nineteenth-Century Canadian Women's Writers

The trendy literary searchlight has flushed out Canada’s lengthy missed 19th century woman writers. New serious ways are endorsed and others are inspired to tackle the problems – and rewards – of analysis into the lives of our foremothers.

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Example text

The 1890s was the era of the New Woman in the United States, and the independent cigarette-smoking female writer or artist living on a par with men was a titillating idea, as Arthur Stringer, another Canadian expatriate in New York, indicated in his 1903 novel The Silver Poppy. But Stringer's heroine is an American, and American women might be capable of any outrage, even plagiarism, as Stringer's prim provincial hero observes with consternation. But if few Canadian women followed the men into exile, they did try as eagerly as their male compatriots to break into print with the American magazines and book publishers.

The examples have all been taken from the province of New Brunswick. Women have been anonymous in history. They were not involved (or their involvement was not recorded) in wars, commerce, politics, or the other epic events that are traditionally chronicled and, indeed, that generated the records. Fortunately, this situation is less true of women writers. They were articulate, they wrote, they published, and in some cases they left papers that have been preserved. However, locating these papers can present many challenges.

From public records such as probate papers, newspaper references (including obituaries), some genealogies, and the papers of Phyllis Blakeley, a Nova Scotia archivist of encyclopedic knowledge and interest, Lois Kernaghan was able to put together an account of Mary Jane (Katzmann) Lawson (volume XI). She began to write poetry early and, at twenty-four, she became editor of a superior but short-lived periodical, The Provincial, or Halifax Monthly Magazine, which in 1852-53 printed poetry and prose on such topics as foreign travel, local history, rural idylls, and science.

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