Heroines and History: Representations of Madeleine De Verchères and Laura Secord

Article excerpt

Colin M. Coates and Cecilia Morgan, Heroines and History: Representations of Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2002), xii + 368pp. Cloth. £55. ISBN 0-8020-4784-X. Paper. £18. ISBN 0-8020-8330-7.

It has been a real pleasure reviewing this fine book, which was the runner-up for the Canadian Historical Association's 2003 Sir John A. Macdonald Prize. The book examines the memorialisation of Madeleine de Verchères (1678-1747) and Laura Secord (1775-1868), heroines of New France and Ontario respectively, who were inscribed as national icons in the historical narrative of the emerging nation of Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The book is in two parts: Colin Coates wrote the first section on Madeleine de Verchères, the 14-year-old seigneur's daughter who saved the family fort and thereby symbolically New France in 1692; and Cecilia Morgan wrote the second on Laura Secord, Loyalist wife and mother, whose heroic walk to warn the British troops of the impending American attack saved Canada in 1812. They both begin with accounts of the exploits written by the heroines themselves, and then examine how the stories were developed by individuals, historical societies and others through children's textbooks, plays, pageants, monuments and films and, in Laura Secord's case, the candy company, during the course of the twentieth century. As real women rather that the more usual allegorical icons of nation, Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord provided powerful images to inspire the citizens of the new nation, but they also attracted projections of differing idealisations and subsequent disappointments as attitudes towards nation, women and First Nations' peoples changed. …