A Life of Propriety: Anne Murray Powell and Her Family, 1755-1849


327 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1175-X
DDC 971.3'54102'092




Reviewed by Chris Raible

Chris Raible is the author of Muddy York Mud: Scandal and Scurrility in
Upper Canada.


Anne Murray Powell and her Court of King’s Bench Justice husband were
two founding parents of the family Compact, the élite group that
dominated the early development of Upper Canada, especially in the tiny
capital of York. Much has been written of the politics of those times,
from the founding of York by the Simcoes to the upheaval caused by
Mackenzie, but little has been known about the social and personal lives
of the ruling families and those with whom they interacted.

Katherine McKenna’s careful and systematic “case study” unveils
the private world, public attitudes, personal turmoil, strained
relationships, social customs, and cultural values of the Powell
family—especially of the matriarch, who is always central to the
narrative. Thanks to McKenna’s worthy efforts, our attitudes and
understandings of that period must be forever changed.

This volume will rightly be seen as a milestone in Canadian women’s
studies—its author’s feminist approach dominates the book and
indeed, is part of its strength. It is also an extraordinary window
through which the reader may view the social dynamics of a whole era. As
such, it is required reading—fortunately, it is also fascinating
reading—for all students of Upper Canadian history.


McKenna, Kathering M.J., “A Life of Propriety: Anne Murray Powell and Her Family, 1755-1849,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6046.