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Canadian Women in Print, 1750–1918

By Carole Gerson
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Paperback : 9781554583041, 300 pages, May 2011
Hardcover : 9781554582204, 300 pages, May 2010
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586882, 300 pages, June 2010
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554582396, 300 pages, May 2011

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Canadian Women in Print, 1750–1918 by Carole Gerson
Part A: Contexts: Women and Print in Canada, to 1918
1. Women and the Broader Contexts of Print
2. Beginnings to the 1850s
Part B: Women Writers at Work
3. Strategies of Legitimation
4. The Business of a Woman’s Life
5. Canadian Women and American Markets
Part C: Breaking New Ground After 1875
6. Periodicals and Journalism
7. Stretching the Range: Secular Non-fiction
8. From Religion to Reform
9. The New Woman
10. Addressing the Margins of Race
Conclusion: Observations on the Canon
Selected Bibliography


Canadian Women in Print, 1750—1918 is the first historical examination of women’s engagement with multiple aspects of print over some two hundred years, from the settlers who wrote diaries and letters to the New Women who argued for ballots and equal rights. Considering women’s published writing as an intervention in the public sphere of national and material print culture, this book uses approaches from book history to address the working and living conditions of women who wrote in many genres and for many reasons.
This study situates English Canadian authors within an extensive framework that includes francophone writers as well as women’s work as compositors, bookbinders, and interveners in public access to print. Literary authorship is shown to be one point on a spectrum that ranges from missionary writing, temperance advocacy, and educational texts to journalism and travel accounts by New Woman adventurers. Familiar figures such as Susanna Moodie, L.M. Montgomery, Nellie McClung, Pauline Johnson, and Sara Jeannette Duncan are contextualized by writers whose names are less well known (such as Madge Macbeth and Agnes Laut) and by many others whose writings and biographies have vanished into the recesses of history.
Readers will learn of the surprising range of writing and publishing performed by early Canadian women under various ideological, biographical, and cultural motivations and circumstances. Some expressed reluctance while others eagerly sought literary careers. Together they did much more to shape Canada’s cultural history than has heretofore been recognized.


  • Short-listed, Canada Prize in the Humanities (English), Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences 2010
  • Winner, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism 2010


A must-read for all students of women's writing in Canada: as useful for its clarifying generalizations as for its effective marshalling and analysis of details, Canadian Women in Print demonstrates why Gerson has been, ever since the publication of A Purer Taste in 1989, such an important scholar in Canadian literary and book history studies.

- Janice Fiamengo, University of Ottawa, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 48/2, Fall 2010, 2011 February

Anyone who knows of Carole Gerson's outstanding scholarship on early Canadian women's writing and early Canadian print culture might have hoped that she would distill and download her lifetime of information and research into one comprehensive tome. Well, she did, and this is the book.... Canadian Women in Print is primarily a literary history, and because Gerson has such a strong command of her material, the highly detailed narrative of women writers and their entrance into print unfolds effortlessly.... Her coverage of the canonical is supplement nicely by the not-as-well-known.... She examines by way of ‘collage,’ as she says, some of the case studies and some of the motivations that induced women to get involved in writing and publishing. Her description of the book as collage helps to explain why the book ‘arranges many separate snapshots of specific individuals and scenes of writing in order to present larger composite stories’ (p. xiii). Indeed, the book is supplemented with the kind of iconic snapshots that would be an ideal introduction to a new researcher in this field. The collage strategy, echoing the best kind of nineteenth-century scrapbook, makes the book very readable and highly digestible.... here is nothing less than the definitive, condensed introduction to the field.... In short, the most trustworthy reference work for any scholar wanting a concise and correct introduction to the field of early Canadian women's writing. Gerson's work has been nothing less than foundational, and here she solidifies again the importance of women's writing in Canada, and her role as its outstanding historian.

- Kathryn Carter, Associate Dean, Wilfrid Laurier University, H-Canada, July 2014, 2014 August

Carole Gerson's assiduous study of writers, publishers, editors, and journalists provides a panorama of predominantly nineteenth-century Canadian women.... The chiefly historical frame keeps the text readable, because Gerson rarely adopts complex theoretical idioms; her language is consistently straightforward and clear.... The range of Gerson's study is vast.... Her numerous headings keep the study's pace consistent and its emphasis focussed, both of which are necessary in a study of such an expansive era. That being said, Gerson's narrative is meticulous and impressive. Through statistical data, a plethora of explanatory footnotes, and well-supported historical evidence, she succeeds in reconstructing a percipient vision of this pre-1918 epoch.... Gerson's primary goal, to broaden the frame of literary history and to make known the women that populate this enlarged scope, is certainly well-realized. This achievement is due partly to the confident, clear style of Canadian Women in Print; its conversational tone would seem inviting to any audience. Gerson's historical anecdotes, especially in her section on women's prefaces, prove similarily captivating, as well as illustrative. Moreover, the text is erudite, yet skillfully distilled to only its most significant conclusions. As such, the critic's wealth of knowledge never overwhelms the page or the reader, but her bibliography still provides a myriad of other historical, literary, or critical resources to aid scholars. Despite its aversion to alternative and equally helpful critical approaches, Gerson's project is fundamentally accomplished and instructive. It reclaims many lost figures and offers a foundation for future studies of a gradually enlarging historical lens focussed on Canadian women in print.

- J.A. Weingarten, Canadian Literature, #212, Spring 2012, 2011 November