In Her Own Time: A Class Reunion Inspires a Cultural History of Women


692 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-00-255431-3
DDC 305.42'0971




Reviewed by Margaret Conrad

Margaret Conrad is Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada Studies at
the University of New Brunswick. She is the author of Atlantic Canada: A
Region in the Making, and co-author of Intimate Relations: Family and
Community in Planter Nova Scotia, 1759–


This book grew out of a reunion of women who graduated from R.H. King
Collegiate in Scarborough, Ontario, in 1961. Using the life stories of
herself and 22 female classmates as inspiration, the author explores 21
themes in the history of women from antiquity to the present. Thus, for
example, Siggins draws on the experiences of Daphne Griffin, mother of
three daughters, to look at the relationships of mothers and daughters
over time. The chapters are grouped into six sections:
“Relationships,” “The Married State,” “The Body,” “The
Mind,” “The Soul,” and ”The Imagination.” Topics range from
lovers, breakdown, and caregivers to education, consecrated women, and
creativity. Although the 44 chapters make a long book, the narrative
moves deftly back and forth between present and past. The thematic
approach to the past inevitably leads to some repetition, but the romp
through several thousand years of women’s history, based on extensive
reading of scholarly texts, is generally well done.

Nevertheless, it is the life stories of a generation of women who grew
up in Toronto’s suburbs in the 1950s and early 1960s that keep the
pages turning. Other than noting their location on the cusp of the
women’s movement, Siggins surprisingly does not reflect on the
implications of her findings. What is striking, especially in view of
the population profile of Scarborough today, is that virtually all of
the class of ’61 were white, Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian, and
heterosexual. For the most part, their family lives, careers, and
preoccupations are defined by 1950s expectations. There are no prison
inmates or prime ministers in the lot, or even a declared lesbian. Many
of them lived their adult lives near where they grew up, a tribute to
the holding power of Canada’s premier city. Now approaching their
seventh decade, they have a tendency to pursue spiritual interests to a
greater degree than the general population, but few have explored their
potential to the extent that Siggins has or that girls born only a few
years later were likely to do. Such findings clearly support the
rationale upon which this book is based: history matters.


Siggins, Maggie., “In Her Own Time: A Class Reunion Inspires a Cultural History of Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,