Aspiring Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1880-1900, and Pioneering Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, Beginnings to 1880

By Dean, Joanna | Urban History Review, October 1995 | Go to article overview

Aspiring Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1880-1900, and Pioneering Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, Beginnings to 1880


Dean, Joanna, Urban History Review


Aspiring Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1880-1900, and Pioneering Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, Beginnings to 1880. Edited by Lorraine McMullen and Sandra Campbell. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1993.

"Let no one who may read this simple tale," warned Harriet Vaughan Cheney, at the close of "The Emigrants" (1850), "suppose it is entirely a fiction of the imagination." Cheney's work owes more to close observation of the city around her than to any flights of fancy. Her "simple tale" provides Canadian historians with a window on a world that we have imagined in other ways, an opportunity to confirm and correct our assumptions about the past.

With a third companion volume, New Women: Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1900-1920, published earlier, these anthologies take us from "the beginnings" to the 1920s, through the critical and observant eyes of Canadian women writers. The volumes are prefaced with an overview of the period, and each author is introduced by a valuable biographical sketch and bibliography.

The stories are useful for historians because, as editors Lorraine McMullen and Sandra Campbell note, the lines between fiction and nonfiction were blurred. Diaries and letters, the primary material of history, are now analysed by literary critics as literary forms, constructions that mould a life to a particular genre. Conversely, stories like these often had a documentary nature.

Early Canadian fiction is particularly rich for historians. The need of Canadian writers to, as the editors put it, "imaginatively occupy" the new country led many of them to adopt descriptive forms of literature such as the sketch, a short piece focused on a single closely-described incident. Catharine Parr Traill's sketch--"The Bereavement" (1846), describes the death of an infant with a realism in which the conventions of sentimental fiction were only superimposed upon her close observations of the lives of pioneer women.

The documentary quality of the stories also reflects the fact that many of the writers were writing for a trans-Atlantic audience that was unfamiliar with, and intrigued by, life in Canada. Susanna Moodie's description of the rigours of a trip through the bush, "The Walk to Dum-mer" (1847), is aimed at such an urban audience, but serves equally to acquaint modern-day readers with the material realities of early settlers. "It would be vain to attempt giving any description of this tangled maze of closely interwoven cedars, fallen trees, and loose scattered masses of rock," she writes, and then proceeds to describe the bush in a long and detailed paragraph.

Perhaps more important than the material realities are the opportunities these stories offer for the historian to understand the mental outlook of an earlier period. Harriet Vaughan Cheney's story is imbued with the Christian benevolence that underlay much nineteenth-century philanthropy. Our very antipathy to her sanctimonious depiction of the grateful poor, alerts us to the distances between her world and ours.

Urban historians will be interested in the implicit rejection of the city in most of the stories. Eden is placed in a country garden, juxtaposed to urban artificiality and stress, in Ethelwyn Wetherald's "How the Modern Eve Entered Eden" (1882). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Aspiring Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1880-1900, and Pioneering Women, Short Stories by Canadian Women, Beginnings to 1880
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.