Recording Angels: The Private Chronicles of Women from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, 1750-1950
Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.
There is never any shortage of views about what women are or should be, but the authentic voice of women themselves is frequently absent when history is written. The Maritimes Women’s History Project is an attempt to remedy that deficiency in a region of the country that is itself too frequently neglected. Some 75 major documents by women have been collected. The diaries exhibit a diversity of origin even though there is no female Charles Ritchie among the lot. Factory workers, domestics, wives, and seagoing women have left diaries, while autobiographical letters recount the travels and experiences of missionaries, nuns, and migrant workers. Unfortunately, none of these writings exhibits a post-Freudian sensibility about intensely personal and sexual matters, but Acadia University historian Margaret Conrad’s brief essay does show how they reveal a variety of women’s experience in the Maritimes.
The chief value of this slim volume lies in the bibliography, for it provides the guide to the sources where Maritime women speak for themselves. Conrad’s essay goes about as far as it can go in drawing conclusions from these materials, but she then falls into the abyss of feminist rhetoric. Along with a number of other books published in the recent past, Recording Angels will help to restore women to history.