Telling Tales: Essays in Western Women's History

Article excerpt

EDITED BY CATHERINE CAVANAUGH AND RANDI WARNE

UBC PRESS, 2000

To write history is to write stories. The 11 essays in this collection tell the stories of women in western Canada from the 1880s to the 1950s. The editors have chosen a multicultural approach which, they believe, reflects the mixed population of the Prairies and British Columbia and emphasizes the importance of settler communities as "places of social and cultural exchange." This approach makes us better able to "evaluate women's unequal relations of race, ethnicity, class, religion and other social factors...and to identify common themes in the construction and reshaping of gender relations and social power in new environments."

Do the essays fulfill the editors' aims? Yes. The essays cover topics that range from gender constructions in the Canadian North-Western Mission field, 1860-1940, to gendered tensions in the work and politics of Alberta farm women, 1905-1929, to an account of African-Canadian women on Vancouver Island. The essay which, because of its shocking and poignant descriptions, will linger longest in readers' minds is Nanci Langford's "Childbirth on the Canadian Prairies, 1880-1930. …