Books on BC Women's History

Posted by Daniel on Oct 23, 2009

As Women's History Month (October) draws to a close, let me mention a few books about BC women that will get anyone started who wishes to investigate the subject further.

First up is Stephen Hume's Lilies and Fireweed (Harbour Publishing), a book about aboriginal and pioneer women and the contributions they made to the development of early BC. This slim, well-illustrated volume is No. 20 in Harbour Publishing's Raincoast Chronicles series.

There are many books about Emily Carr, BC's preeminent painter. I will arbitrarily mention Maria Tippett's 1979 biography, titled simply Emily Carr: A Biography (Oxford University Press). Very readable and again, full of illustrations. Anyone interested in Carr will also want to read Susan Crean's more imaginative take on the artist's life, The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr (HarperFlamingo). Published in 2001, Crean's audacious book won a BC Book Prize.

Helena Gutteridge was a British-born suffragist who emigrated to Vancouver in 1911. A social activist all her life, she was prominent in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of today's NDP, and was the first woman elected to Vancouver city council, in 1937. Irene Howard has told her story in The Struggle for Social Justice: Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer (UBC Press).

A different life story is told in Stella: Unrepentant Madam (Touchwood Editions) by Linda Eversole. Stella Carroll operated an upscale brothel in early-twentieth-century Victoria and Eversole does a wonderful job not only of recovering a life but of filling in the socio-economic context. For a decidedly more depressing view of the sex industry there is Missing Sarah (Penguin Canada), Maggie de Vries heart-wrenching book about her sister Sarah, one of the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

And finally, no list no matter how brief would be complete without mentioning UBC historian Jean Barman. The indefatigable Barman has written many books but two fit today's theme. Maria Mahoi of the Islands (New Star) tells the story of an ordinary Kanaka woman and her life in early BC. The biography is part of New Star's admirable Transmontanus series of books about little known corners of BC experience. Barman has also written a biography of Emma Crosby (with Jan Hare), wife of the coastal missionary Thomas Crosby. Good Intentions Gone Awry (UBC Press) chronicles Crosby's life on the north coast and her work running a school for First Nations girls.

This is just a small sample of the wealth of books about BC women that are available. Why not celebrate Women's History Month by reading one of them?

Labels: BOOKS