British Columbia Reconsidered: Essays on Women


449 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-88974-038-0
DDC 305.4'09711




Edited by Gillian Creese and Veronica Strong-Boag
Reviewed by Lin Good

Lin Good, a consultant, was Associate Librarian at Queen’s University.


Until recently, history was recorded mostly by a powerful male elite,
resulting in a limited and distorted picture. The lives of women and of
working classes, if described at all, were shown as background or
adjuncts to the ruling patriarchy. Today, research and writing by
scholars such as those at the Centre for Research in Women’s Studies
and Gender Relations at the University of British Columbia are filling
in the gaps in our knowledge. The 23 essays in this volume vary in
length, quality, and readability, but even the most pedestrian of them
contains information that intrigues and enlightens; together they make
an impressive contribution to Canadian history.

The value of this work is not confined to women’s studies or to the
history of British Columbia, although it will enrich both. The essays
are grouped under five headings— pioneering, politics, domestic life,
culture, and work and poverty, the last heading indicating why pay
equity legislation eventually had to be introduced to correct the
traditional undervaluing of women’s work. Much of the material applies
across Canada and underlines the complexity and uniqueness of the
country’s social and economic fabric. It shows that white middle-class
women no longer dominate the movement for change, which is increasingly
being shaped by working-class activists, women of color, and First
Nations’ women.

The variety of subjects and contributors is fascinating. Some essays
read like good academic theses (e.g., “Documents of the Women’s
Suffrage Campaign in British Columbia, 1871–1917”); others are
moving appeals to humanity; and “Roughing it in the Bush in
1859–1863 in New Westminster” (about Mary Moody, who, unlike
Susannah Moodie 20 years earlier in Upper Canada, sounds cheerful and
optimistic at the end of the experience) shows that our pioneering women
were resourceful amid strong challenges.

These women, all pioneers in different ways, shaped this country as
they shaped Canadian feminism. To read about them is to feel proud. Yet
this is not a dogmatic or one-dimensional study. It is an excellent
resource for students of all ages, with a useful bibliography for those
who want to pursue certain points further.


“British Columbia Reconsidered: Essays on Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,