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Working in Women’s Archives

Researching Women’s Private Literature and Archival Documents

Marlene Kadar; Helen M. Buss, editor

Life Writing Series

Paper 125 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-341-9

Release Date: February 2001

Online discount: 25%

$36.99  $27.74


eBook availability

What comes to mind when we hear that a friend or colleague is studying unpublished documents in a celebrated author’s archive? We might assume that they are reading factual documents or, at the very least, straightforward accounts of the truth about someone or some event. But are they?

Working in Women’s Archives is a collection of essays that poses this question and offers a variety of answers. Any assumption readers may have about the archive as a neutral library space or about the archival document as a simple and pure text is challenged.

In essays discussing celebrated Canadian authors such as Marian Engel and L.M. Montgomery, as well as lesser-known writers such as Constance Kerr Sissons and Marie Rose Smith, Working in Women’s Archives persuades us that our research methods must be revised and refined in order to create a scholarly place for a greater variety of archival subjects and to accurately represent them in current feminist and poststructuralist theories.

Marlene Kadar is an associate professor in humanities and women’s studies at York University, and the former director of the graduate programme in interdisciplinary studies.

Helen M. Buss is a professor of English at the University of Calgary. Her book on Canadian women’s life writing, Mapping Our Selves, won the Gabrielle Roy Prize. As Margaret Clarke, she has published novels, short stories and poetry.


“You could teach a course from Working in Women’s Archives preferrably an interdisciplinary one combining graduate students in history and literature. The exploration of their different takes on how to work in archives would do them—and their work—a world of good.”

— Janice Dickin, Biography

“Following a nicely focussed introduction by Buss, who sketches the principal themes in the essays, the contributors in Working in Women’s Archives identify and probe potentially problematic dimensions of working in women’s archives.”

— Stella Algoo-Baksh, English Studies in Canada

“Did you know that Nellie McClung wrote in children’s scribblers at the kitchen table? That Lucy Maud Montgomery used her journals to vent her anger and discouragement: That ‘shopping lists and recipes sit alongside elegant prose passages and character sketches’ in Marian Engel’s notebooks?... In addition to providing fascinating tidbits of Canadiana, this collection reveals the unique difficulties faced by scholars studying Canadian women authors, particularly those who lived and wrote before 1940.”

— Ruth Latta, Herizons

“This collection of seven articles marks the beginning of a record of women’s archival research on Canadian women. All the papers are important and informative, giving heartening encouragement to the many others who will follow them. All of them are noteworthy in their practical detail.”

— Clara Thomas, York University, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada

“The book is unique not only in theorizing female archival subjectivity but also in its focus on Canadian archives and resources.... This collection emphasizes those concerns unique to studying women’s life-texts, and includes an interrogation of archives as socially constructed sites.”

— Laurie McNeill, Canadian Literature

Working in Women’s Archives

Table of Contents

Related interest

Biography and autobiography

Life writing

Women's studies

By the same author

Memoirs from Away: A New Found Land Girlhood, Helen M. Buss, editor

Repossessing the World: Reading Memoirs by Contemporary Women, Helen M. Buss, editor

Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives, Helen M. Buss, D. L. Macdonald, and Anne McWhir, editors

Haven’t Any News: Ruby’s Letters from the Fifties, Edna Staebler and Marlene Kadar

Tracing the Autobiographical, Marlene Kadar and Susanna Egan; Linda Warley and Jeanne Perreault, editors